Over fifty years before, Vincentius Goldstein agreed to join the Shifter Council with the express intention of bringing their technology into the future. After all, he’d had fun hacking into it and knew it wasn’t secure. He’s done that, and now finds the almost daily meetings and constant infighting trying his patience. Vincentius prefers the seclusion of his computer room. When he discovers someone hacking into his system, his excitement is stirred for the first time in decades. After figuring out where the hacker is located, Vincentius sends a council investigator after him. To his shock, when the investigator returns with the hacker, a small guinea fowl shifter named Cho, Vincentius recognizes the man as his mate. Even with the mate-pull, Cho fears him. After all, Vincentius had ordered Cho kidnapped and taken away from the safety of his flock mates. Can Vincentius figure out how to win the favor of his captive, or will he lose the best thing to happen to him in over three hundred years?
As stunning as it appeared outside, Cho couldn’t think of anywhere in Stone Ridge with a home such as this.
The soft click of the door’s lock yanked Cho out of his reeling thoughts. He didn’t know who could be there, and panic sliced through him. Acting on instinct, Cho shoved off his sweatpants—the only thing he’d woken in—and shifted.
Cho’s body shrank, and he didn’t hear much over the sound of his bones cracking and tendons popping. From comments made by Gilbert and Ashton, he knew his change to animal form took about twenty seconds or so. His ability to shift back to human form took longer, however…perhaps due to the experiments that had been done on him.
“Whoa, wait,” a melodious tenor cried. “Stop!”
As soon as Cho could move, he streaked under the bed. As a guinea fowl, there was plenty of room. A pair of legs encased in nice gray slacks and pretty black shoes appeared at the side of the bed.
“Good grief,” the man muttered. “Close the door, Seever.”
“Yes, sir.” The sound of a door closing reached Cho, then the second man offered, “Would you like me to drag him out from under the bed?”
Not liking that idea at all, Cho shot out the other side. He spread his wings and launched into the air. With a few flaps, he soared around the room, then landed on the newel post of the headboard.
Cho trilled indignantly as he took in his captors. The man beside the bed had red hair just long enough to tuck behind his ears. His golden-brown eyes were narrowed in his thin face, and he had his chin tipped up, making Cho think he was scenting him. The suit he wore, charcoal gray with a pale green undershirt, appeared high-end. It fitted beautifully to his six-foot-two-inch body, showing off his strong shoulders, trim waist, and the hints of muscle definition beneath the fabric.
To Cho’s disbelief, he felt an unwanted burst of arousal surge through him.
Evidently, the way the redhead lifted his hand was order enough, for the second male remained by the door. That guy was obviously a guard of some sort. He wore form-fitting, navy-blue jeans with a black t-shirt. His hair was black and pulled into a ponytail, so Cho couldn’t tell how long it was. The guy did have wide shoulders and a powerful build.
“Holy fucking shit,” the suited male whispered, redrawing Cho’s attention. If anything, the expression on his face appeared…gobsmacked.
One of Hector’s new favorite words.
Cho missed them. He couldn’t remember a time when he’d been away from them. Even when stuck in a cage, he could always see the others—knew he wasn’t alone.
“What is it, sir?” the guard asked. “Is everything okay?”
“I-I’m not certain how to answer that, Seever,” the suited male stated softly, rubbing lean fingers over the lines of his thin goatee. “This shifter”—he inhaled deeply—“is my mate.”
“Uh…” The guard, Seever, obviously seemed uncertain how to respond. His brows were furrowed, and his eyes narrowed. “Should I congratulate you, sir?”
The suited male shrugged. “Of course. As a fellow shifter, you know mates are a gift from Fate herself.”
“Of course, sir. Congratulations, sir.”
Suddenly, the goateed man grinned widely. “Thank you.” Lifting his left leg, he settled his butt on the comforter with his back to the footboard. “So, little shifter. Just what kind of bird are you anyway?”
“I believe that’s a guinea fowl, sir.”
After a glance behind him and a nod, he returned his focus to Cho. “Well, let’s start with introductions. That’d be a whole lot easier if you’d shift.”
No way! He’s much bigger and obviously stronger than me. Plus, he has a guard. Mate or not, this guy kidnapped me.