Andy is the only one of his brothers who hasn’t met his mate yet, and he doesn’t expect it to happen anytime soon. What would be the odds? So he’s stunned when he meets Claude and realizes he just did.
Claude had no idea what he was getting into when he agreed to go to a birthday party. He didn’t expect his boss and father figure to tell him that he, his family, and his son-in-law's family are all shifters.
Claude has a hard time believing shifters are a thing outside romance novels, so Andy decides to wait to tell him about their bond. Then Claude asks him to be his fake boyfriend at a work event, and Andy can’t say no. He hopes the experience will pull them together, but Claude has erected a hard shell around his heart, and he’s not about to break it down.
Claude is done with relationships, so why does he want to give in to Andy? Why is he tempted to put his heart in jeopardy once again when he swore he’d never allow another man to make him vulnerable and hurt him?
Will Andy be the one to break down Claude’s walls and convince him to trust his heart, or will he fail and find himself rejected by his mate?
Everything was changing.
Andy had known this would happen. One by one, his brothers had found their mates, and now they were happy and living their best life. Even Jack, who’d bitched and had tried to run away from Blair, had eventually given in.
And then, there was Andy.
He hadn’t met his mate yet. He kept telling himself that he was young and had plenty of time, but when he saw his younger brother Laurie happy with his mate and their daughter, he couldn’t help but wonder. Was he really too young to meet his mate? Laurie had turned twenty recently, but Andy was going on twenty-four, and he was still single. It had been easy to deal with when he and Jack were in the same situation, but they weren’t anymore. The only brother who hadn’t met his mate yet was Andy, and he wasn’t sure how to deal with that.
He looked around the living room. It was Blair’s birthday, and they were having a party at the home he and Jack shared. Blair had bought Jack his dream house, and while Jack had been pissed initially, he’d gotten over it. Jack needed his independence, even though he and Blair were together, and it was good to see he finally understood that having Blair buy him things didn’t mean he wasn’t independent. Blair had a lot of money and loved buying gifts, especially for his mate. It was one of the ways he showed Jack he cared.
“I know that look,” a voice said.
Andy plastered a smile on his face and turned to his mother. “What look?”
She squinted. “That look. You’re trying hard to show everyone you’re happy, but I know.”
She had plenty of experience reading Andy’s expressions. Sometimes he wished that wasn’t true. Wasn’t he allowed to pout in a corner for an hour or so? Everyone would understand, and beyond his mother, no one had bothered him. He should have known better than to think she’d allow it. She wanted Andy to be as happy as his brothers, but he wasn’t sure it was in the cards for him, at least not at the moment.
“What’s going on?” his mother asked.
Andy looked back at the spot where Jack and Blair were sitting. They were close together, with Jack’s head leaning against Blair’s shoulder. They were talking, and Jack suddenly laughed, loud and happy.
Andy couldn’t remember seeing his brother that happy and at peace. No matter how much Jack resisted, it was good that he’d given in. Blair was his world, his mate, and they were so in love that it almost hurt to look at them.
But that was an Andy problem, not a Jack problem or something their mother should have to get involved in.
“Ah. I see.” Andy’s mother’s voice was softer now. “Your time will come, too.”
“I know.” Although Andy wasn’t too sure about that.
It was a miracle that all his brothers had met their mates. What would be the odds that he would, too? And even if, in the end, he did meet his mate, he doubted it would happen anytime soon. Jack and Blair had been together for a few months, but it would be too soon for Andy to meet his mate, right? With his luck, he’d meet the guy when he was eighty and couldn’t walk without a cane. He supposed they could be happy for a few years, but he wanted more.
He wanted what his brothers had. He wanted someone to look at him the way Blair looked at Jack now. He wanted to celebrate birthdays and Christmases and Thanksgivings. He wanted an entire life with his mate, and he had no idea whether or not he’d get that.
“He’s not going to abandon you just because he met his mate,” Andy’s mother said.
She’d been able to tell that Andy was moping over several things. Sometimes, how well she could read him and his brothers was scary, although he supposed it came with the territory. She had seven boys and had to learn how to read them before they did something they shouldn’t.
“I know that, too,” Andy told her.
And he really did. Jack had moved out of their shared apartment, and while it felt weird, it was natural. Jack was starting a new chapter of his life with Blair, a chapter where Andy didn’t belong. That didn’t mean they weren’t brothers anymore or that they weren’t close. Out of all of Andy’s brothers, Jack was always the one he’d been the closest to. That wouldn’t change just because Jack had found his mate.
But it wasn’t easy to get used to all the changes. Andy felt like everything was moving too quickly, and he was scrambling to keep up. The problem was that Andy was the only one who couldn’t keep up. All of his brothers were moving on with their lives, meeting their mates, and having children, but Andy was stuck. He lived in his old apartment, still had the same job, and hadn’t met anyone. He wanted a relationship, but he was terrified that he'd meet his mate as soon as he found someone and things became serious with them. It would either be that or when he was eighty, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to take that risk.
But on the other hand, could he stay single until he met his mate when he couldn’t be a hundred percent sure that he’d eventually meet him? No matter how much he wished otherwise, there was no way for him to know. He might never meet his mate, and then what would he do? Was he supposed to be alone for the rest of his life?
His mother grabbed his hand and squeezed. “You’re thinking too hard about this.”
“How am I supposed to not think about it? Look around. You all have your mates, and you’re all happy. Then there’s me, the outsider.”