Working as a high-profile lawyer for his shifter pod, Saul Davison keeps prying eyes away from his wealthy Alpha Kaiser Rush’s affairs. His position earns him wealth and prestige due to being a cutthroat in the courtroom. The fact that he’s secretly a lion’s mane jellyfish and won’t settle down for anyone but his mate, earns him the reputation of a playboy. Saul enjoys both—the finer things the money buys, as well as the plethora of floozies attracted to his bed.
When Saul finds himself repeatedly returning to a small coffee shop, he can’t understand the allure. He doesn’t even like coffee. Sitting at a table, drinking chai tea, Saul is pondering the oddity when a young Hispanic human approaches him…and asks if he can join Saul. Saul’s knee-jerk reaction is to say no, but there’s just something so earnest and sweet in the human’s expression—not something that normally attracts him. Buying time, Saul offers his hand.
As the human slides his palm against Saul’s—introducing himself as Mateo—a zing of awareness rushes through Saul’s body, and it all becomes clear. Mateo is his mate.
Can Saul win his sweet young human’s heart and share the world of shifters with him, or will his reputation get in the way?
“Your hottie is back.”
Looking up from the dishes he was washing, Mateo Barrera stared at Tina. The barista was smirking at him, her blue eyes dancing with mischief.
“He ordered hot chai tea again,” Tina continued with a roll of her eyes. “Why does he come to a coffee shop every day and order tea?”
“Not everyone likes coffee,” Mateo murmured as he thought about the tall slender hottie who’d caught his eye the prior week. “Or maybe he doesn’t do a lot of caffeine in the afternoons.” Mateo didn’t know why, but he felt the need to defend the handsome man’s choices. “And he’s not my hottie.”
No matter how much I’d love for it to be true.
Ten days before—yes, I’m counting—Mateo had exited the back to bus the tables. He had just been finishing up the final table when the man had walked in. Mateo had frozen, the cloth he was using to wipe the table resting on the top, as he watched the stunningly distinguished man cross to the order counter.
The stranger was tall—Mateo guessed he stood around six-and-a-half-feet tall—with a whipcord lean body covered in a suit so high-end that Mateo couldn’t even guess at the designer. With his pale blond hair slicked back from his face and reaching his shoulders, he showed off his aristocratic features. The man’s pale blue eyes reminded him of shards of ice that sent the best kind of chill down Mateo’s spine.
In a word, Mateo thought the man was stunning.
A customer crossing in front of Mateo’s line of sight had caused him to jolt, and he’d quickly rushed into the back.
After that, Mateo had snuck a peek into the front area every chance he could. He’d discovered that the suited man visited every afternoon between one and one-thirty. He would order a hot chai tea, drink it at a table near the door, and then leave.
On Tuesday, Mateo’s day off, he’d almost gone to work just to sit with a coffee during that time so he could see him. In the end, he’d known that would be weird. He’d stayed home with his fantasies and right hand.
“So, you gonna put on your big boy manties and go see him?” Tina asked, poking Mateo in the arm to get his attention again. “I know you haven’t taken your break yet.”
Mateo felt his cheeks heat just at the idea of walking out there and approaching the handsome blond. Except, as he nibbled his bottom lip, he wondered if he could do it. The image of him holding the man’s hand across the table popped into his head, sending a warm churn through his gut.
Why the hell couldn’t I do it?
After all, Mateo didn’t have anything to lose. Even if the man turned him down, he could still dream about him and lust after him. That wasn’t any different than what he was doing now.
Jerking a nod, Mateo muttered, “Okay. I’m gonna do it.”
Tina whooped softly, clapping her hands. “Go get ’em, tiger.” Grinning, she grabbed the dish towel off the counter and used it to whip his butt. “He’s all yours.”
Mateo rolled his eyes as he used another towel to dry his hands. Still, he couldn’t help but smile. He really did appreciate Tina’s acceptance.
Far more than I ever got from my own family.
As soon as Mateo had come out, his family had disowned him. He’d figured they wouldn’t be pleased, but to completely cut him out of their lives? Mateo hadn’t expected that.
I just thought I’d have to deal with some disapproving looks or guilt-driven religious talks or something.
Except, that hadn’t happened.
After all, like many Hispanic families, Mateo’s family were devout Catholics.
When Mateo’s mother had asked him when he was going to bring home a good girl and settle down like his brothers—he had two older brothers as well as two older sisters, all married and three of them with kids of their own—he hadn’t been able to lie anymore. He’d told the truth. It would never happen because he was gay.
Mateo’s father had narrowed his eyes and demanded, “Don’t you disrespect your mother that way.”
When Mateo had apologized while insisting he was telling the truth, his father hadn’t said another word. He’d risen to his feet, taking his sniffling mother with him. Then he’d turned his back on him, using his hold to force his mother to do the same.
Frozen in shock, Mateo had watched as one by one, his siblings and their spouses had also risen. They’d frowned at him, shaking their heads. Then they’d gathered their kids and left for another room.
Mateo hadn’t known what else to do but leave. As he’d left the house, the sound of his mother crying had just about ripped out his heart. He’d tried calling her the next day, but she hadn’t answered. When he’d attempted the day after, Mateo had nearly had his heart broken all over again when his father answered the phone, told him never to call again, and that he was having Mateo’s number blocked from all their phones.
He’d spent the day moping around his apartment in his pajamas, alternating between crying and eating ice cream while cuddling with the battered stuffed cat his mom had given him when he was four—Pace.
Fortunately, Mateo’s buddy, Lee, had arrived and helped him through his funk.
Pushing thoughts of his family away, Mateo took a deep breath. He headed to the break room and took off his apron. Then he returned to the front. Seeing the handsome distinguished blond sitting at the table by the front window, Mateo paused, his courage faltering.
“You can do it,” Tina whispered into his ear, giving his arm an encouraging squeeze.
Mateo nodded as an idea formed.
Heading behind the counter, Mateo began to prepare an iced chai tea latte.