Wolf shifter Adam White has never worried about finding his mate. If it happens, it happens. Until the moment he lays eyes on Colby Carter and Adam’s entire world shifts. He knows he’s looking at his mate, even if he can’t be sure until all his senses are engaged. But Adam didn’t expect his mate to be human. And he certainly didn’t expect his mate to dismiss his claim so easily.
Colby has a solid reason for saying no, but he can’t deny the pull between them. When the truth comes out, Adam is still willing to get to know Colby, and Colby wants the same. But it’ll take time before they take the leap to solidify their bond. Adam pulls out all the stops, including bringing Christmas to the middle of July heat, to show Colby he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make Colby happy.
When a medical scare forces Colby to reevaluate what he wants, he’s all in. As long as Adam is. Adam knows Colby is meant to be his, and the more he’s gotten to know the man, the more he wants him. Fate may have decreed Adam and Colby were meant to be, but it’s never that simple. Can these two men find their way to a future together?
I considered the question for a moment. “What do you know about shifters?”
He shook his head with a chuckle. “Little to nothing. I just found out about this all a few weeks ago. And I’ve only been in Cauldron Creek for two days.”
Okay, so he had a lot to learn. I wouldn’t mind teaching him in the slightest. But for now, I’d keep it simple. “A shifter knows their mate when they experience that person with all their senses. There’s a ... a rightness in their soul, like they’ve found a missing piece.”
Before today, I’d thought it was just a fantasy description. Romanticized by shifters who’d found their mates. But now I knew it was true. It was exactly like that.
“But you haven’t.”
“Experienced me with all your senses. You haven’t done that.”
Oh. I shrugged one shoulder. “Four out of five is enough to know. I have no doubt when I finally taste you it’ll just cement things further.”
He lifted a hand to his mouth and chewed on his thumbnail. I let him think, even though there was a part of me that wanted to fill the silence. That was unlike me, but I had a desperate urge to try and convince him with words of what I felt already. There was a pull to him, and I wanted to follow it with every fiber of my being.
“So. What then? Mates are just your perfect match and you ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after?”
The skepticism in his tone made me bark out a laugh. He jumped at the sound, but then chuckled too.
“No. Not exactly. All relationships are work. And worth working on. It’s just ...” Hard to put into words is what it was. But since he’d asked, I knew I needed to find them. “It means an instant connection. It means that you could be perfect together. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. We’re still two people trying to find a way to be together. But it’s a head start.”
“I like sunshine and rainbows,” he said quietly and even though it seemed like a tangent, it was one I was willing to run with. Part of me would rather him agree and jump into my arms, but he didn’t feel the same pull, there was no way he could, so I had to finesse this. I sucked at finesse, but I would try.
“I do too. What else do you like?”
He grinned. “A good book. One that takes you out of yourself and into a make believe world. Warm spring rain. Puppies with fat bellies.” His eyes lit up. “Christmas and all its trappings even though it’s commercial as hell. I love that.”
I filed all that away, knowing I would do my damnedest to give him all of that. “Those are all very good things.”
He nodded but turned pensive again. “Kateri said…'' He cleared his throat, before trying again. “She said that magic users live longer than regular humans.”
“That’s true. The magic in their souls gives them a longer life.” I wasn’t sure where he was going, but he led this conversation and I would follow along.
A few more beats of contemplative silence. “She said shifters live even longer than that.”
Ah. “Yes. The working theory is that because our bodies regenerate with every shift our cells are better at that then humans or even magic users. We still grow old and eventually die, but it takes us a lot longer to get there than humans.”
This time, the quiet stretching between us felt strained, and Colby kept his gaze fixed on his hands where he fiddled with the tin Ryan had given him. The tension nearly made me speak several times, but I’d vowed to myself I wouldn’t, and so I waited.
Eventually, Colby sighed, and didn’t quite meet my gaze when he lifted his head. “You’re kind. And hot. Like whew, when I saw you ...” He cut himself off with a head shake and a wry grin. It didn’t last long. “I’m sorry, Adam. But this isn’t going to work. I can’t be your mate.”