Brandon has all the problems eighteen-year-old guys have—an overbearing mother, a little brother he could do without, and two slightly pushy best friends. When he goes dancing one night, he doesn’t expect to find himself with more problems—and a mate.
Maddox is a loner, and he likes it. He trusts his numerous pets more than most humans, but some people don’t allow him to push them away, like Asher, his coworker and best friend. Asher is the only reason Maddox finds himself dragged to the club even though he hates crowds and dancing. And when he steps into the bathroom and realizes something is happening in one of the stalls, the evening takes a turn for the worse. Someone drugged his mate and assaulted him.
Brandon knows he was lucky Maddox stepped in when he did, but when the man who drugged him escapes before being taken to the council jail, he expects things to go south. He’s not sure why Maddox offers him to stay at his house, since he clearly loves living alone, but he’s not about to say no to the possibility of getting to know his mate better, even though Maddox keeps him at arm’s length.
But the man who drugged Brandon is on the run, and he’s coming for Brandon. Will Maddox be able to keep his mate safe—even from himself? Or will he break Brandon’s heart before losing him?
Brandon groaned and wondered if his mom was going to check his bedroom. Probably. Should he hide in the closet? He was tempted to do that, but he knew better. His mom knew he was home, so she’d check the bathroom at the very least, and if she didn’t find him, she’d freak out. She’d been crazy protective since that thing with Brandon’s dad had happened, and he wanted to hide from her, not scare her to death.
He sighed. “I’m in my bedroom!” he called back. He hoped she wouldn’t want to talk again. They’d already done this a few times, and it became more uncomfortable with every conversation.
His bedroom door opened. He put down his phone and watched his mother walk in with an armful of folded laundry. “You know you don’t have to bring it to me,” he said, even though he knew it was a lost cause. It used to be that he and Jason had to go to the laundry room to get their clean clothes and put them away, which was okay with Brandon. But now their mom had started doing everything in the house as if she was afraid they might break if they had to put laundry away. It was ridiculous, but no matter how many times Brandon told her to stop, she didn’t.
She smiled. “I know, but I was looking for you anyway.” She put it on the dresser and reached for the top drawer, but that was too much for Brandon.
He hopped up from his bed. “That’s fine, Mom. I’ll do it myself. Thanks for bringing it here, though.”
She froze. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” Brandon thought she was probably bored or something like that. He wanted to suggest she find something to do, like a job or whatever, but he knew better. She’d get offended.
She leaned back against the dresser. “So, what are you up to?”
“Nothing much. I was texting Lee. We’re going to the fire pit later.”
“What about now? Are you busy?”
There she went. “Not really.”
“Is done. I just have to finish reading some stuff, but I have time.”
“Good. How are you, Brandon?”
Brandon sighed. “I’m fine, Mom.”
“Are you sure? What happened with your dad was—”
“Had been happening for a while, so it wasn’t a surprise.”
“You couldn’t have known your father was gay.”
“I didn’t, but once you told us you were getting divorced, well, it made me think and realize something had been wrong all along. Come on, Mom. We’ve already talked about this.”
“I know but having already talked about it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it again. I’m sure you have questions, or that you’re worried about things.”
“I’m not. I swear I’m not. I know you and Dad still love Jason and me. I know you’re both happier this way.” Although Brandon wasn’t too sure his mother was. She’d told him and Jason this was the right thing to do because she and their dad had never been in love and they both deserved a real relationship, but while Brandon’s dad had bonded with his mate and was happy, his mom seemed lost these days. Brandon hated it, and he hated that she’d turned all her attention on him and Jason. He felt like she was always hovering, always watching him and just being there even when he’d rather be alone. He loved her, but it was getting to be too much, and he wished he could be free for a bit.
Brandon loved his mom, but she’d gone from being a normal mom to always being around asking questions, and that, he didn’t like.
He cleared his throat. “Look, I’m okay. I promise. I’m glad you and Dad decided to do what you thought was best and that you’re both happier now.” And that he wouldn’t have to marry some random girl his grandfather had picked for him, but he didn’t say that. His mom would go on her usual rant about it, and he’d heard it often enough.
She hesitated. “Just…you know you can come to me for anything, right? I won’t judge you.”
“I know.” But still, he hadn’t yet told her he was gay. His dad knew because they’d talked about it when they’d had the conversation about Matt and his father bonding, but he was afraid to tell his mom. He knew she wouldn’t care, but he didn’t want to hurt her. Whatever she said, however well she hid it, it was impossible that she hadn’t been hurt by Brandon’s dad bonding with Matt, and Brandon didn’t want to make things worse for her. Besides, he’d been hiding it for years. Waiting a few more months wouldn’t hurt him, not when he already knew she wouldn’t care.
He grabbed his phone from the bed. “I need to go.”
“I told you, Lee and I were going to meet at the fire pit.”
“I thought you said that was later, though.”
It was supposed to be, but Brandon was not going to hang around the house when his mom wanted to talk about his feelings. “Yeah, but he told me he doesn’t have anything to do right now, so we’re going to meet sooner.”
“Oh. Will you be back for dinner?”
“I don’t know, Mom. I’ll let you know, okay?”