Published by Dreamspinner Press
Release date: September 11, 2015
Cover artist: Reese Dante
Finley Cooper is tired of waiting for his destined mate to be ready to claim him. In deference to human laws, he’s already agreed to wait until he’s eighteen. But now his birthday has come and gone—and his mate has a new set of excuses. Finley doesn’t understand it any more than his wolf does, and he’s beginning to wonder if fate made a mistake.
Tanner Pearce wants nothing more than to claim his mate, but he worries that Finley is too young. Tanner will never forget what happened when his best friend mated at Finley’s age, only to have that mate end up feeling trapped and breaking their bond. While rare, it can happen, and the fallout Tanner witnessed as his best friend tried to deal with the break has haunted him for years.
When Finley finally has enough, he threatens to find someone who will claim him if Tanner doesn’t, and Tanner realizes he needs to come to terms with his fears or risk losing his mate forever.
Finley fumed silently in the passenger seat the whole way back to his parents’ house. He was tired of waiting. Two years of being put off by his mate, the one the fates had chosen for him. Two years of intense sexual frustration—jacking off provided very little relief—knowing who he wanted, who he should have, but not being able to have them. He wasn’t about to go fuck someone else, not when he had a mate—even if he didn’t have the man—but he was tired of not having him, of not having anything.
Two years of watching the one person who wasn’t supposed to be able to walk away from him… walk away from him. Time and time again.
He held on to his anger as long as he could. He wasn’t going to give in to the other stuff until he was in his room, away from his parents and sisters, and Tanner had left again and was far enough away that it wouldn’t transmit over their bond. He’d always bemoaned the distance limitation of it, loving that feeling of connection, however light. But now he was glad for it because he couldn’t let Tanner know how all this was feeling. He couldn’t. He could not let Tanner see how much it hurt to be rejected over and over and over again.
He was beginning to wonder if Tanner really wanted him. He didn’t understand why Tanner couldn’t see that he could get all those experiences and still be mated. That he didn’t want those without Tanner. That he wanted to be with Tanner when he succeeded in school, wanted to see Tanner’s pride in him for doing well.
He knew, eventually, Tanner was going to be alpha, and, as the alpha’s mate, there’d be responsibility to go with that. But Tanner’s father wasn’t anywhere near ready to step down. It would be quite a few years before that was even an issue. As long-lived as they were, Tanner’s father, at forty-two, was still considered young as far as shifters go. They had time for that.
So he couldn’t figure out why. Tanner’s excuses were just that: excuses. The only thing Finley could get from them was that Tanner didn’t really want him and hadn’t figured out how to tell him yet.
Oh, he knew Tanner wanted him physically. The few times he’d managed to get Tanner to kiss and make out, he’d certainly felt Tanner’s response. Like in the club, Tanner was usually as hard as he was. But he couldn’t get so much as a mutual hand job out of the man, much less anything more.
He didn’t understand it. He did get why they waited until he was eighteen before doing anything, even if he didn’t like it. There was no way they could end up in a human jail. Their wolves couldn’t take that kind of captivity, and when they spontaneously shifted from the stress… well, that just wasn’t going to work. So he’d waited, because he knew there was always the chance someone from the human high school he attended could call and even his parents couldn’t get them out of it.
But the waiting was killing him. Especially since he had a lot more invested than his dick. He’d long since fallen in love with his mate, long since added his heart to the mix. And knowing that love wasn’t returned was eating at him.
He’d started his little trips to the clubs right after he’d turned eighteen and Tanner had started giving his new excuses—college, experiences, the whole pile of crap. So Finley had decided he needed to try to push things, provoke something more out of Tanner. He wanted to see if he could get Tanner to do something.
But so far all he’d gotten was the occasional dance, like tonight, and more often, annoyed looks, a lot of sighs, and being dropped back off at his parents’ house while Tanner went home. Alone.
And Finley went to bed to jack off. Again.
He couldn’t even seem to get anything possessive out of Tanner. Tonight, his grabbing the blond guy’s hand had been the first time anything like that had happened. Most of the time, Tanner just grabbed him and dragged him out of the club.
Finley was tired of waiting. He was tired of dancing around this shit. He was tired of being put off. He was eighteen, hadn’t so much as touched another guy’s dick, much less had sex, and he was sick of it.
Most of their kind were mated at this time. He knew some were waiting longer, usually because they went to college and the like. And Finley might have happily gone off to college and taken another four years—if he hadn’t met his destined mate and this hadn’t felt so urgent.
But it did and he was going crazy from it. It was time to force the issue. If Tanner didn’t want him, it was time to find someone who did.
He wanted his destined mate. He wanted the man he was in love with. But he could, and would, sever the bond that they’d started and form one with someone new.
Someone who wanted him.
Maybe it was time for a change of scenery. No one else in their pack was gay, much less interested him. In fact, the only other two teenagers his age had both been jocks in school and very much not someone he hung out with. His grandparents had been hinting that they’d love for him to visit, and his grandmother—who didn’t seem to understand the age thing either—had been going on and on about this new “pup” in their pack who was gay.
When Tanner pulled up in front of Finley’s house, he couldn’t bring himself to say a word. He climbed out, slammed the door, and went in the house without looking back.
He called to his mother to let her know he was home, then took the steps two at a time. Once he was in his bedroom, he stripped to his boxers, curled up on his bed, stared at the ceiling. He listened for Tanner’s car to pull out of the driveway; then he’d give in, let the memory of their meeting fill him as it seemed to do so much these days. And once Tanner was far enough away, he could let the rest of his emotions out.
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