Jayden has done his best to forget the first part of his life, the part that happened before he arrived in Whitedell. He’s managed pretty well—he has friends, a job, and he even meets his mate. And who cares if said mate stays in his bear form even after Jayden stumbled on him in the woods surrounding the mansion?
Heath doesn’t know who he is or what happened to him. He can’t remember anything prior to meeting Jayden, and he longs to know his past. Luckily for him, his parents are looking for him, and it takes only a few days for them to meet.
Jayden and Heath have been doing well, slowly getting to know each other, but when Heath meets his family again, he discovers he already has a boyfriend. On top of that, Jayden’s brother suddenly resurfaces, and the mysterious hunters strike again. Will Jayden lose Heath almost before even having him?
Jayden checked his watch one last time and decided it was late enough. Everyone else should be in bed and he could sneak outside without being seen.
He put on his coat and pushed a hat on his hair, feeling sorry he’d cut his hair short recently. He’d felt like he needed a change, and the easiest thing to change had been his hair. Now he was cold, though, and he missed the length of it on his nape.
Jayden made his way through the silent house to the kitchen, but froze when he stepped in. “Gabriel?” The word slipped out before he could stop himself, and Jayden clamped his lips together. Now instead of sneaking out, he’d have to face Gabriel’s questions. Great.
Gabriel turned around and looked at Jayden. He narrowed his eyes and Jayden felt the sudden need to run away and hide, even though Gabriel had never done anything to him. “What are you doing up at this hour of the night?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” Jayden pointed out, hoping Gabriel wouldn’t notice his voice wasn’t exactly steady.
“I’m used to it. I still haven’t been able to go back to a normal schedule.” Gabriel paused, and Jayden searched his mind for a good reason to be there. He couldn’t come up with anything, of course, and Gabriel continued, “What about you?”
“I, uh, I couldn’t sleep. I was going to go for a walk before trying again.” Jayden wanted to face-palm. Why couldn’t he come up with a more reasonable explanation?
“A walk? At one in the morning? In the snow?” Gabriel asked, obviously not believing Jayden, and with good reason.
Gabriel’s eyes narrowed. “Why are you lying to me?”
Jayden swallowed and prayed his stomach would stay put. “I’m not lying.”
“Bullshit. You can’t think I’d really believe you were going for a walk.”
Jayden shook his head. He couldn’t see a way out of this. He knew Gabriel wouldn’t give up. “It’s none of your business.”
“Were you going to meet Shad?”
Jayden frowned. “Shad? Why? Is he out there?” A flush of adrenaline ran through Jayden’s body. “We have to go help him!”
He rushed to the door, but Gabriel grabbed his arm and stopped him, his jaw set. “Why? What do you know?”
“Come on! We need to go! Now, before he finds Shad!”
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on, Jayden.”
Jayden wanted to tell Gabriel, but he himself wasn’t sure of what was happening. “But it’s not my secret to tell.”
“Are you working against the pride? Is that it? Do you know who Shad is meeting?”
Jayden blinked. “What are you talking about?” He took a deep breath. “Look, I don’t know anything about Shad being out there, but my mate is.”
Gabriel’s eyes widened. “Your mate?”
Gabriel pulled Jayden even closer. “Tell me what’s going on. Now.” His hard tone didn’t call for bullshit, but Jayden knew they had very little time. They had to hurry. He couldn’t explain everything in detail. But he could try, because Gabriel obviously wasn’t moving until he knew. “A few weeks ago I was in the woods, looking for a type of plant that was mentioned in one of the books I read. There was a noise behind me, and I... I turned around, and it was a bear.”
“It came at me, and I thought I was going to die, but it stopped just before tearing my head off. It sniffed my neck and I... it rubbed its cheek against mine. I was terrified, but then I realized the bear was my mate. I don’t know what happened to him, why he’s in the forest all alone, and why he’s in his bear form, but I’ve been visiting him every night.” Jayden could still remember the fear and the surprise that had warred in him when he’d found his mate, and he shivered.
“And he’s never shifted back?” Gabriel insisted
“That’s where you were going?”
“Yes! And we have to go get Shad, because my mate doesn’t know him. I don’t know how he’d react to Shad, especially since Shad probably smells like me, at least a bit. We spent a lot of time together lately.”
“Do you think he might attack?”
Jayden shook his head, fear building inside him, both for his mate and his friend. “I don’t know.” He looked at Gabriel, hoping the man would finally believe him.
Gabriel nodded. “Let’s go.”
He never released Jayden but rather pulled him along as he hurried outside. “Shad isn’t the only one out there. Dominic and Nate are with him, as well as another man.”
“What—what’s happening?” A thousand questions were on the tip of Jayden’s tongue, but now wasn’t the time to ask them.
Gabriel was walking fast, almost too fast for Jayden to follow him. Jayden tried as hard as he could, but he was panting by the time they reached the mansion’s gate.
“I can’t go into details, but Shad was meeting someone, someone Dominic and Nate need to catch. I thought it was you when I saw you sneaking out.”
The gate was open and they walked past it. Gabriel paused once they were outside and looked around, then pulled Jayden along as he started walking again.
A roar echoed in the forest and Jayden knew it was his mate. His heart fluttered and he ran, ignoring the snow that stuck to his jeans and shoes. He burst into a small clearing, followed by Gabriel, and Shad was standing there, his eyes huge as he looked at them. “What are you doing here?” he asked in a panicked voice.
“I told you to come alone!” a voice yelled from somewhere in the forest.