Brenda has been asked to come along with her alpha, Aedan, and his human mate, Brody, to settle a bit of an issue in Texas. The local bear shifters are planning to drill for oil in an area that has previously been considered protected territory. They’re threatening the ecosystem and these otters are determined to knock some sense into them.
The bears are crafty and when one offers Brenda a chance to end it all and protect the environment as she so desperately wants to, Brenda jumps at the opportunity. She only has to mate with the woman’s son. He’s attractive and seems nice enough. What could possibly go wrong?
Everything would be fine, and Hanson and Brenda might have even been happy together, except for one minor issue—Hanson is already in love with someone else, a badger named Roger. His mother’s deal is the perfect solution for breaking them apart forever and destroying Hanson’s happiness in the process.
When Brenda finds out about who Hanson had to give up in order to be with her, she’s livid, but she’s also determined to find a way around a contract neither of them wanted to sign in the first place. The situation may seem hopeless, but Brenda doesn’t believe in no-win scenarios, and she’s determined to build a life with the three of them together as they should be.
Brenda glared at her cousin and alpha, Aedan. “I really don’t understand why I’m needed on this trip.” The plane bounced again, making her stomach knot. She was an otter, designed by nature for the water. She wasn’t a bird. Air was not her element, and the rough skies over the Rockies while they flew from Washington to Texas, weren’t doing anything to change her feelings on that sentiment.
“We’re hoping that by having a woman along, we can get through to the bears a lot easier.” Aedan pushed his tray table up and sighed.
“Kind of the same reason I’m along,” Aedan’s mate, Brody, said. “Although, I’m getting really tired of being a peacemaker. I want to go back to being a simple vet.”
Aedan chuckled and patted Brody’s leg. “No such luck. But you’ve done a great job helping me keep the peace in the Northwest. Now if we can only convince these fools in Texas that they need to pay more attention to the environment while they’re drilling.”
“You know, if it’s going to mean flying all over the world to deal with this kind of crap, I’m dropping out of college tomorrow and going off to be a starving artist,” Brenda said. “Who knew that getting an environmental science degree was going to be such a hassle.”
Aedan chuckled. “I’m just glad more of our people are getting degrees and trying to integrate with the world. We’ve got a unique perspective on the world, and the local romp seems to think since we’re doing such a great job at home, we can expand our reach and do even more.”
Not for the first time on the flight, Brenda wished there was a shifter-only airline they could’ve gone on. Not being able to talk openly during the hours it was taking them to get halfway across the country was driving her nuts. She wasn’t exactly happy about the way Aedan had just shown up on her doorstep and announced that she was going with them to Texas. Her best friend, Charlie, was going through a lot, and she wanted to be there for him, but clan came first. She just hoped they could get to Texas, tell the bears there they were being fucktards and to not mess up the ecosystem any more than they already had, and then board a plane and fly back to the Pacific Northwest where she belonged.
DFW airport was incredibly busy. Brenda wished they could’ve just walked out and not had to wait for Gregory, the local alpha, to get there and take them to their hotel. When the doors opened onto the sidewalk and the hot air hit her, Brenda cringed and wished again that Aedan had left her out of these talks. She should’ve been in the surf where she belonged.
They all got into the large SUV parked at the curb. There were already two other people in the vehicle, a man driving and a woman who ended up squeezed between the local alpha and the driver. Brenda let Brody be the one to ride bitch in the backseat. She wasn’t thrilled when she heard they still had a couple hours to drive before they reached Gregory’s house. She crossed her arms and did her best not to glare at anyone.
“We really do appreciate you getting here so fast,” Gregory said again as they pulled away from the curb. He’d already told Aedan that twice since they met in the concourse.
“It’s horrible what the bears are doing,” his mate, Clarissa added. “They’re doing a lot of damage down in the gulf, but we’re worried about the water supply in this area, too.”
“Since this is closer to your home, we can start up here,” Aedan said. “But we will want to go down to the gulf and see what’s going on there. Won’t we, Brenda?”
She almost kicked him for including her in the conversation. She’d hoped to let them talk and just sulk about being in the heat, even though the air conditioner of the SUV was doing a good job at kicking out a cool breeze. “Yeah, but how willing are the bears going to be to let us inspect things? You guys down here don’t have the same understandings we have in the Northwest. We’ve even got bears and otters mating now. It’s really helped with the interspecies communications.”
Clarissa turned and looked over the seat toward Brenda. “Don’t think we haven’t thought about that, but we don’t have many young people in our romp, and the bears don’t normally view us wealthy enough to consider for marriage.”
Aedan sighed and shook his head. “Wealth shouldn’t have anything to do with that. If two unmated people fall in love, they should be able to be mated.”
“They should, but the bears still practice arranged marriages.” Clarissa huffed like she didn’t consider the idea a legitimate one. “They say it helps control the purity of their clan and keeps the money where they want it. They don’t want to risk another clan getting their paws on the oil the bears control.”
“Right.” Brenda had heard all about the arranged marriages from Charlie. His crab clan was doing it, and a marriage contract was how he was managing to mate with his major crush, West, the cheetah. “Our bears and some of the other shifter clans are doing the same thing. It’s not a bad thing when it works right.”
Clarissa shook her head. “We’re still all about free love. Find your mate on your own. It makes for happier young people. And happier adults too, in the long run. Trust me, you always know when you’ve met your mate.” She glanced at Aedan and Brody. “Don’t you, Aedan?”