“Juany!” My mother cried out as I pulled the truck up behind the taco stand. It was early in the evening so my folks were cleaning up and getting ready to close. I’d come down from the farm with another delivery of fresh vegetables. It had only been three days since I’d seen them, but my mom always acted as though it had been ten years.
“Hey, ma,” I smiled as she rushed over to me for a hug.
“I’m sweaty!” I warned her.
“Oh, you know I don’t care, hijo!” she replied as she wrapped her arms around me. My mom might be a small woman, but she hugs harder than Stone Cold Steve Austin. My parents were both Mexican immigrants and had been working hard in America since they first came. Things really took off two years ago when they opened their taco stand, and with my new job at the farm, I was really able to help them out in a big way with fresh produce at better prices than they could find anywhere else.
“Aye, Juan!” My father called out as he handed a couple of street tacos to a hipster couple. “How are you, son!?”
“Good, pop!” I called out as my mother finally released me from her vise-like grip. Dad pushed open the back door of the stand and came outside, cleaning his hands with a wet rag.
“What have you got for us today?” he asked eagerly, eyeing the back of the truck.
“Good stuff, pop,” I grinned, lowering the tailgate for him so he could get a look at all the boxes in the back. “Tomatoes, onions, spring onions, cilantro and peppers.”
“Jalapenos?” he asked.
“You know it,” I smiled, grabbing one and handing it to him. “Hot as Hell though, so don’t go too crazy with them.”
“These gringos can’t handle the heat around here,” he chuckled, tossing the small pepper in the air and catching it. “I’ll be careful. How are things at the farm?”
“They’re good, pop,” I said as we started to unload the truck.
“Don’t be silly, Carlos,” my mother scolded him. “How are things with you?! Any romance on the horizon!?”
“Stop it, ma,” I groaned as I set the cilantro down. Mom was always pushing for me to get into a relationship, which was probably one of the reasons I wasn’t actively looking for one. I wasn’t opposed to the idea in any way, I just didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything.
Life at the farm was great. I had my job and my pack. Two of them, Kenneth and Terry, both had cubs that were crawling around the place causing all kinds of havoc, and the nightlife in Austin was good. After seeing how happy those two were, I didn’t want to get myself into any old relationship simply for the sake of having one.
Love will find me, that was my motto.
“Oh, Juan,” my mom groaned, shaking her head with obvious disapproval. “You are almost twenty-three years old! How much longer are you going to make me wait to be a grandma?”
“Leave the boy alone, Juanita,” my father scolded. “It takes time to find the right one.”
“Yeah, you don’t want me just having babies with some random omega, do you, mom?”
“Of course not!” she protested. “I just—I just want to be a grandma! I want you to be happy!”
“I am happy, mom,” I assured her, patting her on the head. My mom was an adorably short woman who barely came up to my chest. She was a bubbly woman that always kept her head up no matter how tough things got. My dad also never complained, and I was grateful for the work ethic they’d instilled in me.
“But how much happier would you be with a little cub in your arms?” She winked. “Or two? Or three!?”
“Enough, Juanita!” My dad laughed. “Give the poor boy a break. He’s been working all day; he doesn’t need you telling him how to live his life.”
“Thanks, pop,” I chuckled as he sliced one of the tomatoes and gave it a taste.
“Mmm!” he said, raising his eyebrows approvingly. “Juanita, try this!”
My mom took a bite and smiled. “Our boy sure knows how to grow them!”
“It’s not just me, ma,” I replied. “The whole pack helps out on the farm.”
“This cilantro looks great too,” my father remarked. “I’m going to finish up inside.”
My dad headed back into the taco stand, leaving me outside with my mom. I closed the tailgate but I could feel her eyes on my back and knew she was thinking about telling me something. So, to save her the trouble, I turned around and looked at her.
“What is it, mom?”
“What’s what!?” she asked innocently.
“I can tell you want to tell me something,” I told her. “So just come out with it.”
My mom’s face dropped off and she groaned. “Gah! Am I that transparent?”
“Just a little.”
“Okay, okay,” she smiled, shuffling forward until she was right beside me. “We have this new boy working here—”
“Mom, no!” I groaned, leaning back against the truck. She grabbed my forearm and pleaded with me.
“His name is Francis,” she said quickly. “He’s an omega, and he’s gorgeous! He’s funny! He helps us here three days a week.”
“Come on, mom,” I groaned, feeling like a little kid again. She looked up at me with convincing eyes, just as a good-looking omega came around the corner carrying a box of soda. I saw the look of approval in his eyes before he looked away. My mom poked me in the side.
“Nice, huh?” she asked.
“Stop it,” I protested, but she wasn’t wrong. Francis was a good-looking guy. He was shorter than me, with cropped brown hair and a nice body. He wasn’t overly fit or anything, but he wasn’t bad.
“Just take him out on a date tonight!” she pleaded with me.
“I can’t, mom,” I replied. “I’m not going out tonight. I’m headed for a swim at Blue Hole and then going home.”
“So, take him swimming with you, hijo!” she pressed me, tickling me in the spot on my side that always got me.
“Ah, stop it!” I cried out, trying to get away from her. But my mom was like a persistent squirrel and just kept up.
“Take him with you, hijo!” she pleaded. “If you don’t like him, you just bring him back here!”
I sighed deeply and looked from my mom to Francis. He was good-looking, and I knew that it would definitely get my mom off my back if I just said yes and took him to Blue Hole with me.
“Okay, fine,” I said, giving in. My mom threw her hands into the air and yell-whispered with glee.
“Oh, hijo! This is so good! I knew you would like him!”
“Calm down, calm down,” I told her. “I’m just taking him swimming, not walking him down the aisle.”
“He will win you over!” she warned me, waving a finger in my face. “Hey, Francis!?”
Francis looked up as my mom motioned for him to come over. “Francis, this is my son, Juan. He’s gonna take you swimming, okay!?”
“Hey, Francis,” I said, interrupting. “I was gonna head over to Blue Hole to cool off. Care to join me?”
My mom’s excitement was practically palpable. I could just feel her gazing up at me with hopeful eyes, thinking that Francis was the one who was going to settle me down and give her the grandkids she’d always wanted. But I just wasn’t sure.
Yeah, Francis was cute, but I just didn’t feel that spark. When I spoke to Preston, our pack leader, about how he felt when he first met his fated-mate, Kenneth, I just understood that what he felt then and what I was feeling now were two completely different things. Preston just knew, and when I looked at Francis, I didn’t.
“Yeah, that sounds fun,” Francis said with a soft smile.
“All right,” I nodded to the truck. “Hop in. Let’s go. Mom, say goodbye to pop for me.”
“No problem, hijo!” my mom called out as we both hopped in. “Have fun you two! Bye-bye!”