Lucas’ life is good. He has friends, lives in a nice house, and owns a bookstore—which he thinks is the perfect job. He’s missing love, though, and he’s envious of his mated friends.
Carter left Chicago after his divorce. He needed a change, and Gillham is his hometown and a great place to raise his daughter Lilia. He’s wary when he meets Lucas and they realize Carter’s his mate, but he’s willing to give love another chance. Lilia deserves a second parent—the parent Todd never wanted to be.
Lucas thinks everything is going well until Todd tries to wiggle his way back into Carter’s life. He believes Carter when he says he’s not getting back with his ex, but is that really what Todd wants, or is there more behind his attempts to convince Carter he still loves him? And if there is, how far is Todd willing to push to get it? Lucas thinks everything is going well until Todd tries to wiggle his way back into Carter’s life. He believes Carter when he says he’s not getting back with his ex, but is that really what Todd wants, or is there more behind his attempts to convince Carter he still loves him? And if there is, to what end is Todd willing to push himself to get it?
Lucas hummed as he read on his phone, his back against a tree, his ass parked on a warm patch of grass. He loved spring, the warm weather and the smell of grass and flowers. He loved being with his friends, too, which was why he’d taken the afternoon off. Hugo could use the hours working at the bookstore since he was about to become a dad, and Lucas could use the time with his friends. They had so few occasions to spend time together these days, what with everyone being busy with work and with their mates.
Not that that was a problem Lucas had, of course.
Tristan, who was asleep on the grass next to Lucas, snuffled and smacked his lips. Lucas made sure he was okay—the overprotective feelings Lucas felt when it came to Tristan had never faded, even though it had been years since they’d arrived in Gillham. Tristan was better now, especially since he and Hudson had gotten together, but habits were hard to dismiss, especially when it came to a friend’s safety.
A loud screech made everyone in their little group jerk. Even Tristan sat up, looking around wildly, still half-asleep. Lucas dropped his phone to the ground and almost reached out to snatch Tristan away when a bundle of pink and red slammed into him. Tristan almost fell to his back in his haste to move away, but it was only a little girl who looked delighted to see him there.
“Oh God, I’m sorry!” a man said as he rushed after her.
Tristan looked at him. He was holding the girl, and she seemed to love it. “I know you.”
The man nodded and rubbed the back of his neck. “You found Lilia for me a month or so ago.”
Tristan laughed and the girl—Lilia—beamed up at him. “I remember.”
Lucas relaxed. Whoever the guy and the girl were, Tristan knew them. He didn’t need to be defended.
Lucas’ attention went to the man. He was handsome—tall and well-built, with brown curls that glinted red in the sun and gray eyes, a five o’clock shadow on his cheeks. There was a slight blush on his cheeks, and Lucas caught sight of a trail of dark hair on his stomach when he rubbed the back of his neck again, his T-shirt rising just a bit.
Lucas licked his lips. He liked the guy’s small, soft-looking stomach, and he couldn’t help but wonder how it would feel under his palms, or maybe pressing against his own stomach as they made out.
He was so lost in his staring he almost missed the guy introducing himself.
“Jessie, Ezra, and Max,” Jessie said as he pointed at each of them in turn.
Lucas pulled his gaze away from Carter. He couldn’t stare at the guy like he wanted to eat him up. They were in a public park, and there was a kid with them.
That didn’t mean he didn’t listen to the conversation Carter was having with Jessie, though.
“You’re new to town?” Jessie asked.
“Yes. Recently divorced, too. I haven’t had many occasions to make friends, between Lilia and work. Tristan invited me to visit pack territory, but it seemed like encroaching on a territory that’s not mine. It’s not like I really know him.”
Lucas kept his gaze on Lilia, who was blabbing to Tristan. She was pretty, with the same brown curls as her father framing her face and bouncing around as she moved. Lucas wondered if Carter had been married to Lilia’s father or her mother. Either was possible, although it was more probable he was straight.
It was a pity, but then Lucas hadn’t been planning to ask him out. He wanted to date, wanted someone in his life, but he didn’t know Carter. He might be just about the sexiest man Lucas had ever seen, but that didn’t mean he was into Lucas. Men rarely were.
Lucas knew it was because he was standoffish with people he didn’t know. No matter how much time had passed, he was still wary after the way his date had knocked him out and handed him over to the lab he’d spent so much time in. It made it hard to trust guys enough to go out with them, even now that the lab was only a bad memory.
Lucas couldn’t help himself—he looked at Carter again, his eyes widening when he saw Carter was looking back at him. He directed his attention to Tristan and Lilia again, his heart racing in his chest. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been interested in a guy from the get-go. He didn’t know anything about Carter apart from the fact that he was hot and that he had a daughter, so why was he so drawn to him?
Carter blushed again at something Jessie had said, and Lucas berated himself for not having listened in. He couldn’t move closer without attracting attention, though, and he knew Tristan would want to know what was happening. Lucas was good at reading Tristan, but Tristan was just as good at reading him. He’d know right away something was up, and Lucas himself wasn’t sure what it was yet.
He only knew he liked Carter and that he was drawn to him. It could mean a lot of things—that he hadn’t had sex in too long and that the first hot guy who looked at him made him feel flustered, or that he’d eaten something weird. Maybe even that Carter was possibly his mate.
Lucas had no way of knowing which possibility was right. He knew which one he hoped for, of course, but the thought also terrified him.