The last thing Callum expected to find while out flying was a van full of kidnapped people. He has no idea what to do with them, but thankfully, they’re not his problem for long.
His mate is.
When Moore sends Leon to rescue a group of kidnapped people, he expects to fight hunters, not to meet his mate. He’s spent years staying away from his family to make sure the hunters wouldn’t find them, but he’s not sure he can do the same when it comes to Callum.
Callum won’t be kept away, and Leon has to accept that. Can he, or will he give in to the fear that something will happen to his mate—and that it will be his fault?
Hayes kept peeking at the diner’s door. Normally, Leon wouldn’t have thought anything about it, but he couldn’t help but tease his friend.
“Aren’t you supposed to know when Rikar’s coming? I mean, the two of you are bonded, and he’s a Nix. Surely, you can reach out to him and ask him where he is.”
Hayes glared, but he didn’t look angry. “I don’t want to bother him. He’s working.”
As the leader of their small village and tribe, Rikar had plenty of work to do, and Leon didn’t envy him. He could only imagine how annoying it was to deal with so many people and complaints on a daily basis. It was a miracle Rikar hadn’t run out of the village screaming and promising he’d never be back. Leon was pretty sure that was what he’d have done if he’d been in Rikar’s place.
But Rikar wasn’t shouldering this on his own anymore. He had Hayes, and while Hayes was uncomfortable with being called anything more than a mutant, there was no denying that he was becoming a central part of the village. When Rikar wasn’t available, people went to Hayes, and he was going on fewer missions as time passed.
Leon didn’t mind. He didn’t want any of his friends to be in danger, so it was good that Hayes had decided to start staying back. He still went when Moore needed him, but Moore had noticed what was happening, or rather, his mate had pointed it out. Jolyn had suggested that Moore give Hayes and Rikar time and space for their relationship to grow. That meant doing without Hayes when they were on raids, so sometimes it wasn't easy, but they made it work. They would all do whatever it took to ensure their fellow mutants were happy, no matter what it meant for the mission.
Leon leaned back against the bench and took a sip of his soda. He still believed in the cause that pushed them to fight back against the people who’d hurt them so badly. Like all the other mutants, Leon had been through hell, and he’d come out of it changed and convinced of what their team was doing.
He wished he hadn’t had to live through all of that, but he couldn’t deny he didn’t have a problem with how he’d been changed. Before, he’d been nothing more than a shifter, and while that was fine, he wouldn’t have been able to do what he did now if he’d remained simply a shifter. As it was, he could heal people, which gave him more satisfaction than anything else he could have done with his life.
“If he’s working, aren’t you supposed to be working with him?” Teddy teased, winking at Leon as he did so.
Hayes’s glare deepened, but now it was aimed at Teddy. “I’m not Rikar’s beta. I’m not a co-mayor or whatever you want to call it. I have nothing to do with his job as this village’s leader.”
“Keep telling yourself that,” Davey muttered around his burger.
Leon snickered. It was fun to tease Hayes, but none of them wanted their friend to get angry. Besides, if Hayes would rather not think about how he was becoming a pride leader, Leon wasn’t going to burst his bubble.
Hayes needed time. He and Rikar hadn’t been together that long, and it had been a massive adjustment. Hayes wasn’t just a follower anymore. No matter what he thought or what he wanted to think, the fact that he was Rikar’s mate meant that he couldn’t get out of becoming a prominent figure in the village.
“You know, you’ve been teasing me mercilessly about finding my mate, but you’re going to eventually, and when you do, my time will come.” Hayes grinned evilly and steepled his fingers together. “I’m going to have so much fun.”
Leon snorted. “Just because you found your mate doesn’t mean we will. It doesn’t work that way.”
“Doesn’t it? Because from what I’ve seen, when people start meeting their mates, the rest of their family and friends do shortly after.”
Leon didn’t want to believe that. He wouldn’t know what to do with a mate, and more importantly, he was unwilling to put anyone in danger. Considering what he and the other mutants did for a living, it would be too easy for the people they cared about to be hurt. Besides, the hunters weren’t the mutants’ only enemies. They also had to be careful of the council, the council assassins, the people who worked in the labs, and the hunters.
Leon couldn’t believe that he’d once thought the labs were part of the past. He’d thought shifters were safe, but he couldn’t have been more wrong, and he’d paid for that. He’d been turned into a mutant, something not quite shifter anymore, and it had taken him a long time to wrap his mind around that. He’d lost everything and wasn’t about to put himself and his heart in that position ever again. No, it was better if he never met his mate. That way, when he lost them, he wouldn’t be hurt. Hell, he wouldn’t even know he’d lost them.
But not everyone felt like he did when it came to mates. Teddy sighed, and his expression turned dopey. “I can’t wait.”
Leon snorted. He didn’t say anything, but Teddy frowned anyway.
“What? I can’t want to find my mate? To finally have one who will love me for who I am and won’t demand things I can’t give them?” Teddy asked.
Leon didn’t want to fight with any of his best friends. Besides, he understood what Teddy was talking about. It just wasn’t for him. “Of course you can. If that’s what you want, I hope you’ll find your mate as soon as possible, maybe even today or tomorrow.”
“I hope you’ll all find your mates,” Hayes interjected.