Thedric’s life is neat and tidy. He has his job, his parents, and his wife, and it’s been that way for the past twenty years. So what if he yearns for more? So what if he wants love and a real family that will love him the way he imagines families love each other?
Les has watched his nephews meet their mates, and between them and his brother, he’s starting to wonder if his time will ever come. He’s not lonely, but he does feel alone sometimes, and at forty-four, it feels like he missed his opportunity.
When Thedric allows his brother to drag him to a family birthday party, he doesn’t expect to meet his mate, and he doesn’t know what to do with Les. Their lives are so different that they feel they can’t mesh together, and while Thedric is ready to do everything to make it work, Les is more hesitant.
Can Thedric leave his lavish life behind, or will he bow to his parents’ demands that he stay married? And if he does leave his old life behind, can he and Les make it work, or are they too different and set in their ways to welcome a mate in their lives?
Like every time when he was with his parents, Thedric wished he could be anywhere but here. He didn’t want to be having dinner with them. Even worse, he had to listen to them rant about their grandson and how everything they’d been planning for Miko had been ruined.
Thedric nodded at something his mother said, then stuffed a piece of meat into his mouth. At least the cook was just as good as she’d been for the past few years. The food was delicious, and Thedric wondered if the cook would allow him to steal her away from his parents. They weren’t enjoying the food, so what did it matter? Thedric would make better use of the cook than they ever had.
“Isn’t there anything you can do?” Thedric’s mother asked.
He should have listened better so he’d know what she was talking about.
He plastered a neutral expression on his face. “I don’t see how there’s anything I could do.” It wasn't a lie if she’d still been talking about Miko. There wasn’t anything Thedric wanted or would do to get the boy under the same bad influence his parents had on him and his brother. Miko was free, and he needed to stay that way.
Thedric would make sure he did.
His mother wrinkled her nose. “But there has to be something. He’s our grandson. We had plans for him, and everything is ruined. We need to find another way to get him.”
Thankfully, Thedric’s parents had only found a way to contact Miko after he turned eighteen. Thedric wouldn’t put it past them to try to get custody of him if he’d been a minor, but there was nothing they could do as it was. Even if Miko were to be declared incompetent, as they’d already tried to do, his parents and his mate would be the ones to take care of him, not his grandparents.
Thedric was thankful for small miracles every day.
He put down his fork and stared at his mother. He didn’t want to fight with her because she was passive-aggressive, but he also couldn’t let this go. He might not have been in Miko’s life for the first nineteen years of it, but that didn’t make the boy any less his nephew, and after growing up with his parents, Thedric knew better than most what would have happened if they’d found a way to get their hands on Miko. He was living proof of it.
“We’ve already gone over this,” he said, ignoring the way his mother glared at him. “And even though some of Father’s friends tried helping, they didn’t get the results you wanted. What makes you think that trying something else will change anything? Miko is an adult, and no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to convince him to obey you. And even if something were to happen to him, he has a mate who’ll take care of him.”
Thedric’s father slammed his wine glass onto the table. The red liquid sloshed but stayed in. Thedric glared at him, but while his mother was passive-aggressive when they bickered, his father was outright aggressive, and that wasn’t something he wanted to deal with any more than his mother’s behavior.
“That mate, as you call him, is human.”
“And? It doesn’t change what they are to each other, and if I were you, I’d keep my distance. You know how bad the consequences will be if you try to interfere in their mating.” Surely, Thedric’s father wouldn’t be that stupid, no matter what he thought of mates.
Although Thedric wouldn’t put it past him to attempt something. His father needed control as much as he needed to breathe. When he didn’t control his family, he lost it, which was what had happened with Miko, and before that, when Damick had left.
Thedric remembered well how life had been after his brother had met his mate. Their parents hadn’t wanted him to bond with her. She was a Nix, but she wasn’t someone they would have chosen for him because she wouldn’t benefit them and their status, and they’d made sure he knew that. They’d already had a marriage arranged for him. Everything had been planned down to the number of children he’d been supposed to give them. They’d expected him to let go of his mate and obey their orders, but he hadn’t.
Instead, he’d bonded with his mate and moved away without hesitation. He’d never come back.
Thedric and Damick’s parents had lost one of their chess pieces, and they hadn’t been able to get another one. They’d hoped that with Miko in the picture, that would change, and Thedric was pretty sure his father had already started putting out feelers to find someone to arrange a wedding with, but thankfully, Miko had told Thedric’s father where he could put that arranged marriage.
Thedric would have paid for a video of his father’s reaction to that.
Both Miko and his father were much stronger than Thedric ever had been. Thedric had gone along with everything his parents had wanted since he was a child, including marrying the person they’d chosen for him. That didn’t mean they were happy with him. He could feel his mother staring at him, and he was doing his best to keep his focus on his plate and the food on it.
“Well, if we’re not going to get Miko, then we need another child,” she said.
Dammit. Thedric had hoped she wouldn’t bring this up. “You don’t need a child,” he said, hoping she’d get the hint.