Teddy is focused on one thing, and one thing only—making his brother proud. That means finishing his Master’s degree with the highest grades possible, then finding a good job. Those plans don’t leave time for anything else, so when Teddy is told he needs a date for a birthday party, he lies and says he has one in the hopes that he’ll be able to wiggle his way out of the party.
Instead, he finds himself having to come up with a fake boyfriend, and he has no idea who can help him with that, so he’s lucky Sterling, a Gillham pack member and one of his acquaintances, comes up with someone.
When a pack member approaches Ollie and asks him if he wants to play fake boyfriend for a friend of his, Ollie agrees. He hopes it will help distract him from the jealousy he feels at the sight of his best friend with his mate. He loves Gabriel and Gabriel’s new mate, but he wants what they have, and he doesn’t know how to get it.
They’re both stunned when they meet at the party and realize they’re mates. Teddy doesn’t have time for Ollie, but can he really give up his only chance at being with his mate? And can Ollie get over what his parents did to him and trust Teddy, especially when Teddy is trying so hard to keep him at arm’s length?
A loud crash made Teddy jump in his seat. He scowled at the door, but even though it was closed, he could still hear what was happening outside.
Nysys was getting ready to throw a party, and everyone in the house knew it.
How could they not? Nysys was always noisy, but he got even noisier when he was focused on something, especially something like a party. Teddy wished he could tell the man to stop, but he couldn’t. Nysys had just as much right as him to organize a party. They were both Whitedell pride members, and that was that. It didn’t matter that Nysys was disturbing Teddy’s studies. It didn’t matter that he was making as much noise as a herd of elephants. Teddy and the rest of the house just had to deal with it.
The door flew open. Teddy was hiding in the living room, but he should have known that wouldn’t last for long. He’d needed a change of pace, though, after spending the past few days in his bedroom.
Nysys paused at the entrance for a second, then strode inside. Teddy’s shoulders slumped. There was no way he was studying now. “What do you need?” he asked Nysys.
Nysys grinned at him as if he didn’t realize he was disturbing Teddy. He probably didn’t, actually. He was so focused on his party that he didn’t understand how much he was bothering everyone. “I was just going to start decorating the living room.”
Teddy frowned. “Decorating? It’s still days before the party.”
“And I need everything to be perfect.”
Teddy leaned back against the couch and scowled. “This isn’t your mate’s first birthday party. Why do you need everything to be perfect? Why do you even need to throw him a birthday party in the first place? He’s going to live more than a hundred years. Couldn’t you skip the party this year?”
Nysys arched a brow and crossed his arms over his chest. “Someone is grumpy.”
“You would be grumpy, too, if you were trying to study and someone kept making noise and disturbing you.”
A flash of guilt passed on Nysys’ face, but it was gone fast. “Well, I’m sorry I’m disturbing you, but some of us have more in our lives than books.”
“I know that. But it’s important for me to—”
Nysys waved. “Of course it’s important for you to do well in your studies. I know that. And I’m sorry if I’m disturbing you. But you need to relax sometimes, Teddy.”
“I do relax.” Rarely. But Teddy had better things to do than relax. He needed to focus on his studies and doing well. He owed it to his brother, Jayden.
“Are you sure? Because some days, it looks like there’s nothing in your life but school. And I get it. You want to make your brother proud and to make it in life. That’s great. But you’re still a kid. You have time, probably more so than my mate has birthdays. You could take a year off or something.”
The thought horrified Teddy. “I’m not taking a year off from my studies.”
“Fine, then take a few hours off. Surely you can do that? Maybe you could help me with the party.”
Teddy shook his head. “I’m sorry. I’m just too busy.” And he had no sense of aesthetics. If he decorated, it would probably look like a party supplies store had vomited all over the place. “I’m going to go upstairs.”
Nysys shrugged. “Whatever. But remember, all work and no fun—”
Teddy rolled his eyes. “I have fun. I just don’t like the same things as you. I like books and serious stuff.”
“You’re right. I don’t find books fun. That doesn’t mean I’m stupid.” There was a hint of anger in Nysys’ voice, and that was the last thing Teddy needed. The last thing he wanted, too.
He didn’t want to offend anyone. He liked Nysys most of the time. The man was great, even though he was weird, and Teddy had grown up with him in his life as if he were an uncle or something.
But Nysys was right. Teddy was trying to make his brother proud, and that wouldn’t happen if he slacked off and didn’t graduate. “I’ll think about it, okay?”
Nysys wrinkled his nose. “I don’t think that thinking about it is enough. Look, you’ve been studying for days. We’ve barely seen you during meals, let alone the rest of the day. Why don’t you take a few hours off? It won’t hurt your studies. If anything, it will help you relax, and you’ll probably be able to study more once you are.”
Teddy hesitated. He wanted to think that Nysys was right, but he wasn’t sure he could risk it. He wasn’t a party guy. When he went to parties—something that didn’t happen often—he was the guy who hung out in corners and against the walls. He was the guy people forgot was there. And sometimes that hurt, but he was aware that it was because of the way he behaved.
He loved the pride. The pride and its members had been his family ever since he was a teenager. With them, he’d found something he’d thought he’d lost forever after his mother had died. He’d gotten his brother back, and so much more. He might not have lived with the pride until recently when he’d moved out of his brother’s house, but this had still been his family, and it was where he’d spent most of his Christmases and Thanksgivings.