Parliamentary aide Joseph Richmond is aghast when his boss quits and he’s reassigned to work with Zac Hawkesford, the newly-appointed Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation. Zac is an Alpha, and as every omega knows, Alphas do not belong in government. He’s also way too handsome and far too distracting for Joseph’s peace of mind.
Afraid of giving up control and losing himself to Alpha demands, Joseph tries to fight the attraction between them. But as they work together on a bill to ban legal highs, he realises Zac isn’t like any other Alpha he’s encountered ... and one day, Joseph discovers why. The revelation changes everything between them, prompting him to admit some uncomfortable truths of his own -- and to finally face his fears of surrendering to an Alpha.
The door swung wide, and in walked Zac Hawkesford.
The breath punched out of his body. Joseph stopped himself from taking a step backwards. He had to meet this challenge head-on. He would show this Alpha he wasn’t impressed, wouldn’t be intimidated; that the only qualifications he would respond to were ones of leadership and hard work, not some predetermined biological imperative.
But oh, it was so hard to fight biology.
In the personnel file photograph, as on television, Zac had looked good enough to disturb Joseph’s sleep. In the flesh, he was devastating.
Zac’s presence entered the room a good six feet ahead of him. The air fairly crackled with it. The Prime Minister had charisma, but this -- this was tangible. Even the notoriously unflappable Home Secretary responded to it, a flush pinking his cheeks and his notched smile warming by a few degrees.
That wasn’t all. Zac was spectacularly handsome.
Irritation snapped Joseph into focus. He’d known he would encounter Zac at some point; that was why he’d looked at the Alpha’s personnel file. It was the sensible thing to do, to accustom himself to Hawkesford’s appearance so he wouldn’t react when they finally met. Except the picture had failed to capture the essence of the man, and all the media clips posted online were but pale shadows of the brilliant, ebullient reality.
He was taller than Joseph expected. Obviously when Zac was campaigning he was always leaning forward to shake hands, and when he spoke he stood behind a podium, but still, he was tall. The effect was emphasised by the cut of his double-breasted charcoal-grey suit, which fitted so lovingly it had to be bespoke.
A shiver of jealousy cut up Joseph’s spine at the thought of the tailor who’d made that suit, who’d measured the length of Zac’s legs and the breadth of his shoulders, noted the high nip of his waist, checked the span of his biceps and circled his wrists so the cuffs would sit just so, an inch and a half of pristine white dividing charcoal-grey superfine from warm, tanned skin.
But it wasn’t Zac’s clothes that made Joseph weak, nor was it the force of his charisma. It was his eyes, bright and inquisitive and friendly. It was his smile. A smile that warmed Joseph right down to the bone. God, he could feel it, that smile; feel it unravelling the tangles of ingrained suspicion, making him soften, making him want to put his trust in this man.
The usual warnings flittered through Joseph’s head. Alphas attract unwary omegas, use them, then cast them aside. Alphas are all superficial glitter with no emotional depth. Only mated Alphas can be trusted. An unmated Alpha is a menace to society.
He knew not all of those statements were true, but still they crowded his thoughts and trampled his common sense. By the time he pulled himself together, Zac was standing right in front of him, holding out a hand with the same easy grace as he smiled.
“Zac Hawkesford. Pleased to meet you.”
“Joseph Richmond.” He glanced down at the offered appendage but made no move to take it. He couldn’t, he just couldn’t. For fuck’s sake, he could barely walk past the statues of former Alpha Prime Ministers down in the lobby without shivering a little; to actually touch this man was beyond him right then.
Zac withdrew his hand, the smile never wavering. “I look forward to working with you, Joseph. The speeches you write are acknowledged to be some of the most dynamic in Parliament. In fact,” he gave a little laugh -- was he actually nervous? “I’m surprised no one else has claimed you.”
The faux pas echoed around the room like a gunshot.
“That’s not -- I beg your pardon, of course I didn’t intend to suggest ...” Zac squirmed to backtrack, crucifying himself on his mistake. “I mean your talents. Claimed your talents. Your ability, I mean. Your skills are so widely admired, I’m astonished you haven’t been assigned to a more senior minister.” He glanced at the Home Secretary in desperation.
Rhys Scarpa-Mottisfont’s eyelids drooped owlishly. “Like the early Ming emperors, we prefer to keep the most able of our administrators at the county level.”
Zac looked bemused by the analogy.
Joseph pressed his lips together to hide a bitter smile. He was perfectly well aware of the reason for his stalled career progression, but he wasn’t prepared to share it. Especially not with an Alpha.
The Home Secretary dropped the pile of signed documents onto the desk. “Alrighty. Introductions over. Mr Richmond, you will be attached permanently to Mr Hawkesford --” why did he have to make it sound so obscene? “while you work on the legal high bill.”
Joseph frowned. “Excuse me, sir, but that bill is Margaret’s.”