Councilman Lorian Bakerman knows his mother’s dinner invitation is a set-up. Having been dodging her attempts to introduce him to eligible shifter women of her choosing for the last several years, he’s learned all the signs. Ever since other single councilmen have begun finding their mates—male mates—she’s been urging him to settle down…with someone she finds appropriate.
When Lorian accepts a barbeque invitation from Enforcer Germaine for the express purpose of avoiding his mother’s plans, he’s shocked to find himself drawn in by a pair of sad hazel eyes. Scenting the shifter, he realizes that Randy Cullers is his mate. While Randy acknowledges their connection, he seems timid and uncertain, leaving Lorian confused…until he learns that Randy is mourning the loss of a long-standing partner.
Lorian wants Randy and is willing to give him time. Can his patience hold out as he helps Randy’s heart mend while stopping his meddling and manipulative mother’s ways before she scares him off?
Councilman Lorian Bakerman clicked a button on the computer, saving the file. Opening his email, he sent the information to Alpha Kontra Belikov. He knew the bear shifter would make good use of it.
The prior month, Lorian had met with Kontra, a grizzly shifter and leader of a nomadic biker gang. The man had been hanging around the area while helping a friend settle in with his mate. When Lorian had overheard rumors that Kontra and his people were preparing to move on, he’d asked for a few moments of his time.
While the buffalo Lorian shared his psyche with—or American bison, as some called it—had been a little concerned to be in the same room as a grizzly, Lorian had known he was completely safe. Kontra had come very highly recommended by their Shifter Council’s newest member—Shane Alvaro. The wolf shifter and his prior pack had worked with Kontra and his people on a number of occasions.
Besides, Lorian had had Enforcer Dakota Drudeson with him. He knew the Komodo dragon shifter would never have allowed anything to happen to him. While Lorian considered Dakota a friend, it was also the male’s job to keep him safe.
Lorian’s email pinged, drawing his attention. He spotted a confirmation from Alpha Kontra and smiled. Coordinating with the nomadic gang to clear out facilities they’d found in ex-Councilman Krakow’s file—who’d been put to death for his crimes—had been the best decision the council could have made.
Satisfied that Kontra would investigate the tip as soon as he could, Lorian leaned back in his chair and stretched his arms over his head. He arched and felt the soft pop. Grunting with pleasure, he rolled his head slowly on his neck. Once again, Lorian heard and felt a crack.
“Ouch. That sounded like it hurt.”
Lorian met Enforcer Germaine’s dark-eyed gaze and grinned. “How it sounded is totally different than how it felt,” he countered. “Been sitting at this desk for far too long,” Lorian admitted as he rose to his feet. When his stomach grumbled a little, too, he glanced at the clock on the wall. “Mmm, missed lunch. How come you didn’t holler at me?”
Germaine grinned widely, shrugging his lean shoulders. “You looked like you were in the zone, and I had a big breakfast with Sage,” the dark-skinned anaconda shifter told him—referencing his Bengal tiger shifter mate—as he rose to his six-foot-six height. “Ready to head to the cafeteria?”
“I am,” Lorian agreed. “I think a massive grilled chicken Caesar salad is calling my name.”
Humming, Germaine nodded. “I’m certain a Rueben sandwich is calling mine.”
Lorian’s stomach growled louder, causing both men to chuckle. Leaving his office, he led the way down the hallway. He noticed Germaine fall into step at his right, the enforcer’s gaze always in motion.
While Lorian would have liked to have enough faith in his fellow shifters to call Germaine paranoid, he knew better. There had been too much unrest amongst his kind due to their changing policies. The Shifter Council was finally getting with the times—accepting same-sex fated matings and sending investigators to police pack alphas, removing those who abused their power. Those bigoted and power-hungry shifters who had a hard time with the changes were causing problems. There was no telling where they might strike, which included within the walls of the Shifter Council building itself.
After all, they’d managed to infiltrate it before.
“Are you doing anything for the fourth?”
Arching one brow, Lorian questioned, “The fourth?”
Germaine nodded, his black brows furrowing. “Uh, it’s the Fourth of July on Saturday,” he reminded him. “A national holiday.”
“Oh, right,” Lorian murmured, nodding. “Guess I totally lost track of time.”
Patting Lorian on the back once, Germaine told him, “You need to get out more, Councilman.”
“That’s the truth,” he agreed with a chuckle.
“Guess that’s a no on plans,” Germaine continued as they reached an elevator. As he punched the up button, so they could get to the main level where the cafeteria was, he added, “Sage and I are having a barbeque Saturday afternoon. Bunch of guys who work with the council will be there as well as a few others. You’re welcome to join us.”
Lorian smiled, unable to remember the last time he’d done something so laid back as a barbeque. At nearly three hundred years old, he’d been a councilman for almost a century. He always seemed to need at least one guard with him.
Of course, a barbeque at an enforcer’s home whom I trust…
“Well, give it some thought,” Germaine continued, telling Lorian that he’d been quiet for too long. “The invitation will still be there.”
“I—” The trill of his cell phone interrupted him. When he looked at the screen, he groaned.
Germaine chuckled as he led the way into the elevator. “Maybe you’ll lose service in here.”
Lorian followed him into the car. “I wouldn’t get that lucky,” he grumbled before accepting the call. “Good afternoon, Mother.”
“Good afternoon, Lorian,” Annabelle Bakerman—his mother—greeted breezily. “How are you today? You’re not working too hard, are you? Have you eaten lunch?”
Grimacing, Lorian stated, “I’m fine, Mother. I’m just on my way to lunch now.” Before she could respond, he quickly added, “And work is the same as always. Busy.” Lorian could guess what his mother would say next, so he told her, “I’m looking forward to a nice, relaxing meal in the sunshine.”
“Are you getting another one of those processed meals from your cafeteria again?” Annabelle scolded. She always seemed to have something to complain about. “If you would just settle down with a good woman, you wouldn’t have to eat that terrible food.”