Jared didn’t expect to find his mate, but he is overjoyed when he does, even if Chogan is a wendigo. When Chogan doesn’t recognize Jared as his mate, Jared is hurt and he pushes Chogan away without telling him about the bond between them, thinking it’ll all end there. He hasn’t taken in consideration one of their friends spilling the beans, though.
Chogan is a wendigo and wendigos don’t have mates, and most of all, they don’t have love, so he’s both surprised and elated when he finds out Jared is his. Now that he has a chance at a happily ever after, he’s not going to let Jared go, even if he has no idea where to start.
The two of them work to get over their awkwardness and doubts, but just as they manage to get closer, Chogan’s recent past comes back to get him. He knows the pride will protect him, but can he risk his mate’s life to save his own?
Jared was nervous. His palms were sweaty, his heart was beating too fast, and his breath was ragged.
He hated talking in front of people more than anything else in the world, but backing out of this wasn’t an option. He knew it wasn’t, because he had tried. He had asked, pleaded, even tried to order Dominic to take his notes and be happy with just those, but the lion shifter had just laughed at Jared before saying that the whole council needed to hear what he had to say. His answer was always the same, even now that Jared was standing in front of the door to Dominic’s office with the council on the other side of it.
“We need you to be there to answer questions, doc.”
“I can be there if I really need to, but I don’t have to talk in front of everyone! My notes should be enough!”
Dominic chuckled. “You know, I don’t get you. You walk in the middle of battles to help save people’s lives, you go against enraged shifters just to make sure they’re fine, and you’re scared to talk in front of what, ten people?”
Jared couldn’t explain it, because he didn’t understand it himself. “When I’m healing, I know what I’m doing. I know I’m good at it, and I don’t have the time to be worried. You know I’m shy, Dominic. Please, please, don’t make me do this.” Jared tried his best to make puppy eyes at his Alpha, but he wasn’t Keenan. He couldn’t pull that look as well as the human.
Dominic looked at him. “Jared... I understand you don’t like this, but you’re the only one who can do it. No one on the council understands anything about medicine, and you’re the one who treated every single shifter we got out of the labs. You’re the only one who has the entire picture.”
Jared grimaced. He knew his Alpha was right. It just didn’t help make him feel better. “I know, I know.” He sighed. “Fine, I’ll do it. But you owe me!”
Dominic smiled. “That I know. I owe you for a lot of things, Jared. I truly don’t know what we would have done without you the past year.”
That was true. Jared had been part of the pride for about ten years, but until the mess with the company had begun, he didn’t really have much to do as the pack doctor. Sure, there were the small wounds the kids always ended up with, the check-ups with the pregnant women, but not much else.
Then Jamie had been kidnapped, and it had begun. Now Jared had so much work to do, what with the new council’s hospital and the clinic, plus the pride’s care, and he knew he was going to have to delegate. At least he didn’t have a mate. He wasn’t sure how he would manage to deal with a mate on top of everything else.
“Now, are you feeling better? Because Keenan is going to come and get us if we don’t get in that room.”
Jared shuddered in horror. Keenan was a handful on his best day. He was loud, always happy, always teasing, and Jared actually wished he could be a little more like the human sometimes. Still, that didn’t mean he wanted to find himself the object of Keenan’s wrath for being late at the council’s meeting.
“Fine, let’s go.”
Jared took a deep breath as Dominic opened the door. The level of noise the people in the room were making increased, sending Jared into a panic, but he squashed it down, or at least he tried to. He couldn’t completely erase the fear, and he had to work with it, around it.
He followed his Alpha, immediately freezing when he stepped into the room and saw the people sitting around the big table. I can do it. I can do it.
Repeating his mantra, he tightened his fists and kept his eyes on the only empty chair left. He moved it backward and settled in it, never looking at the other people. He put his papers on the table and smoothed them carefully.
“Okay, everyone. Thank you for coming. As you know, Rayford Glass is still sitting in the council’s jail,” Dominic said. “We all know what he’s done, generally speaking, but I want you to hear every detail of it. Jared has taken care of nearly every shifter and human we rescued from the labs. He healed their wounds as well as he could and helped them get over what they have gone through, and I asked him to come here today and tell us everything.”
I can do it. Jared looked up and immediately wished he were elsewhere. All eyes were on him, watching him, and his heart began beating harder, his breath growing shallower. I can do it.
Jared fixed his eyes on the one person he knew would support him even if he ran away from the room and opened his mouth even as his fists tightened on the table. “As Dominic just said, I was the one who took care of the survivors. I call them survivors, because that’s what they are.”
Jared could feel the panic diminish as he talked about what he knew best—his job, his patients. His art.