Geoffrey’s life is normal—or it would be, if most of his friends weren’t members of the Gillham pack. He loves the pack, though, and when he finds an injured woman and three babies, he agrees right away to take care of the oldest one, Mingan. It’s the least he can do, and maybe it’ll help him get closer to William, his mate.
William thought he’d never trust another man, not after what his best friend and lover did to him seven years before. He tries to resist the bond that pulls him close to Geoffrey, but Geoffrey is stubborn, and he doesn’t take no for an answer.
William has no doubt Geoffrey will eventually wriggle his way into his life, but will he be able to get past the wall William built between himself and the rest of the world? What will Mingan’s presence mean for them and for their future? And what will happen when Mingan’s father tries to get him back?
Geoffrey hummed as he walked among the trees, following the fence that surrounded the Gillham pack territory. He loved hiking, and he felt safe doing it in pack territory. No one could trespass, not unless they tried hard, and the patrols passed often. Nothing would happen to Geoffrey.
It was a legitimate worry, considering what was happening in town lately. Humans vandalizing cars and burning down houses, shifters retaliating by doing the same. Of course, no one had proof of anything, but Geoffrey did his best to avoid hiking on his own.
He wasn’t a shifter, even though he was fascinated by them. Most of his friends were Nix, but he’d met quite a few shifters since he’d started getting friendly with Neriah and Sei. He was still working on Nuallan, but the man seemed terrified of him. He disappeared every time Geoffrey was around, and that was saying something since they both worked in Ethan’s flower shop.
A bird cried out, and Geoffrey froze. He looked up, trying to find where the sound had come from. An eagle sat onto a branch above Geoffrey. Its feathers were speckled in different browns, and its tail was white.
Geoffrey didn’t think he’d ever seen that kind of eagle around, so he was pretty sure it was a shifter, probably one of the enforcers. They weren’t supposed to patrol pack territory, even though they lived there, but with the guerrilla fighting going on between the humans and the shifters who’d left the pack, maybe Bran and Kameron had decided they needed someone who could see danger coming.
“Hi,” Geoffrey told the bird.
The eagle cocked its head, and Geoffrey wondered if he knew the guy or girl. He had no way to even check whether the eagle was a boy or a girl, and he didn’t know many enforcers anyway, but he wanted to be polite, just in case. That, and he hoped the eagle wouldn’t think he was trespassing.
“I’m allowed to be here,” he said since the eagle was still staring at him. “I’m a friend of Sei and Neriah, and I work for Ethan, Nuallan’s mate.”
The eagle stared at Geoffrey for a while longer, and Geoffrey wondered what was going on. Then the eagle nodded and flew away, startling Geoffrey. He wasn’t sure what had just happened, but since the eagle had nodded, he’d probably believed Geoffrey. If he hadn’t, he’d come back with his team, but Geoffrey didn’t mind. He was allowed to be there.
And since he was allowed, he started walking again.
He loved the forest, and he was glad his parents had chosen to move to Gillham when he was nine. Of course, he hadn’t been all that happy back then, but that was a while ago. They’d been among the first people to find out about shifters, and Geoffrey loved that. He also loved being able to hike as much as he wanted to during spring and summer.
It would be nicer to be able to walk with William, but he still hadn’t agreed to see Geoffrey again. Geoffrey was working on it, though, and he wasn’t one to be easily dissuaded when he wanted something.
He knew what had happened—Sei had told him what William sniffing his neck before literally running away had meant, or at least what he thought it had meant. Geoffrey still had a hard time believing he was William’s mate, especially with the way William had reacted to him, but he wasn’t giving up.
It wasn’t only because William was a shifter. The idea was romantic, and Geoffrey couldn’t deny he was envious of all the couples prancing around pack territory. William seemed like a genuinely good guy, though. Geoffrey had asked around, and he liked what he’d found out.
Most people looked lost when he mentioned William, but those who did know him had only good things to say about him. He was a hard worker, in charge of answering the free phone number the council had implemented for the lost shifter kids. He spent a lot of time alone, but he didn’t mind helping when someone needed it. He loved his family and kids, and Zach had even told him William was a good cook.
If only Geoffrey could talk to him, things would be peachy.
Sei had explained William was very shy, and Geoffrey thought it was adorable. He’d probably come on a bit too strong when he’d hit on William the other day, but he hadn’t known about them being mates or William being shy, and he couldn’t convince William to give him a chance—yet.
He wasn’t giving up.
Grinning, he took his phone out and dialed the kids’ hotline. He probably shouldn’t have, but he didn’t have William’s personal number. He’d make sure to keep the call short.
“Hi, I’m William, and this is the shifters’ help number.”
Damn, that voice. It made Geoffrey’s knees go weak. “Hi.”
There was a pause before William said, “You’re not a kid.”
“God, no. It would make my crush on you totally weird.”
“Geoffrey. Why are you calling?”
At least William had recognized him. Maybe he did have a chance after all. “To talk to you.”
“This number wasn’t created to give you the opportunity to flirt.”
“Oh, I know. You could give me your number. That way it wouldn’t be a problem.”
“And you’d probably call me several times a day.”
It looked like William already knew Geoffrey, at least partly. “I could text if you don’t want me to call.”
Geoffrey wasn’t paying attention anymore. He’d continued walking as he talked, but something on the other side of the fence had made him stop. There was something in the bushes, but he couldn’t see what it was. It was big, though, and it moved. It also whimpered.
“There’s something in the forest,” he said.
“What? What are you talking about?”