Payne has been living with the assassins for four years, and he’s finally in a place where he feels he has something to offer. He graduated from high school, and along with Greg, he’s a participant in a council program that trains the future council assassins. When he meets his mate, he thinks his life is as perfect as it could be.
Until his mate rejects him.
Rob moved in with the assassins to help Jasper. At first, he doesn’t understand what Payne means when he says they’re mates—it’s just not possible. Payne is young and handsome, while Rob has always been more focused on his work than his personal life. He feels there’s been a mistake and that he can never be good enough for Payne.
What if Payne feels the same?
Payne and Rob both feel they’re not good enough for the other, but they’re mates, and nothing can change that. Can they get over their insecurities and find their way to each other? Or will they think they know better than fate itself?
Payne pushed Gregory. He’d pushed too hard, and his friend almost fell off Payne’s bed. He continued laughing, and Payne laughed with him.
“I don’t want you and your boyfriend to talk about me,” Payne warned, pointing his finger at his best friend.
“We’re just worried,” Gregory said. He was still snickering.
“There’s nothing to be worried about.”
“Isn’t there? Have you decided what you want to do next, then?”
Payne resisted the urge to stick his tongue out. They weren’t children anymore. To be fair, they hadn’t been children in a long time, even when they were young.
He sighed heavily and flopped back onto the bed. “I don’t know. I know what I want to do, but I’m not sure I’ll be allowed to.”
Greg stretched out next to him, staring at the ceiling. “Yeah, I understand that. We’re going to have to do something, though. We can’t just sit around.”
Payne agreed. The assassins had welcomed them when they needed a place to call home, a place where they could feel safe, and Payne would always be grateful for that. Without the assassins, he and Greg wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go to school or have a family. Payne wanted to repay them in some way, but how?
For the past few years, the assassins had been his entire world. He didn’t have anything beyond them, and while he didn’t care about that, it didn’t make it easier to decide what he wanted to do with his life. He was twenty now, and he’d graduated from high school. It had taken him a while because of all the time he’d lost when he’d been sold to the human, but he was finally done.
And now, he had no idea what to do.
His phone vibrated in his pocket. He wiggled until he managed to get it out and stared at the screen, squinting when he saw the name on it.
“Win just texted me.”
“He just texted me, too,” Greg said. He sounded puzzled.
Payne shared that feeling. Win was the assassins’ handler, which meant Payne and Greg didn’t have anything to do with him very often, especially not in a professional capacity. They saw him at meals and around the warehouse, but that was that. They weren’t assassins, so they didn’t need much from him, and he didn’t need anything from them.
Except that maybe he did.
Payne sat up and raked a hand through his hair. “Why does he want to see me in his office?”
“Us, you mean,” Greg said. He twisted his phone around so Payne could see the text there.
It was the same one he’d just received.
“All right. Why does he need to see both of us, then?” Payne’s stomach turned. “You don’t think he’s going to kick us out because we’re not contributing, right?”
“Why would he kick us out? This is our home.”
“Well, yeah. But we’re supposed to contribute, aren’t we? Everyone does, even the mates.”
“And we don’t do anything now that we’re done with school.”
“I’m sure he wouldn’t dare kick you out.” Because Greg was mated to one of the assassins, Evan. If Win did something that displeased Evan, Evan would leave, and the council would have one fewer assassin.
But Payne? He didn’t have anyone here. He had Greg, who was his best friend, and Evan, who felt a bit like a brother-in-law. He had Armand, who’d taken on the role of adoptive father, even though Payne had already been sixteen when he found him. Armand was protective, so Payne doubted he’d allow Win to kick him out, but still.
Payne didn’t want to start a war between the assassins, and he was sure that if Win was kicking him out, he had a good reason to do so. Knowing that didn’t make things easier.
Greg climbed off the bed. “Well, whatever he wants, we should head there and find out.”
He wasn’t as scared as Payne, and it made sense. Greg was more secure in his position with the assassins because of Evan. He knew that Evan would have his back whatever happened, and not for the first time, Payne wished he’d meet his mate.
Only to hope he wouldn’t meet them seconds later.
None of the assassins was his mate. After living in the same house as them for four years, he was sure of that. That meant that if he found his mate, it would be someone outside of their family. That was probably a good thing, but it would mean that Payne would have to leave, and he didn’t want to. He realized that eventually he’d have to live his life and not continue hiding here, but he wasn’t ready to do so yet.
He wanted to be an assassin, since he and Greg had arrived at the warehouse. He’d been watching the assassins, and he trained with them, but none of that changed the fact that he was just a regular shifter. The council assassins were anything but regular. Each of them had a special ability that had been forced on them in a lab, and while Payne’s life hadn’t been easy, nothing like that happened to him. No matter how much he wished for it when he first arrived, he was still just a fennec fox shifter—nothing more, nothing less.
Greg was staring at him expectantly, so Payne slid off the bed. He tried delaying by stretching, then looking around for his shoes, but Greg pushed him toward the door. “Stop that.”
“I’m not doing anything,” Payne protested.
“That’s bullshit. You’re wasting time, and I know it’s because you’re afraid Win will kick you out. He’s not going to, so stop worrying about it.”
Payne found one of his shoes and pushed his foot into it. “That’s easy for you to say. You know you’re not going anywhere because of Evan.”