Neriah arrived in Gillham after spending two months as his tribe leader’s fake hostage. Now he works part-time in a flower shop, plays big brother to the street kids flocking to Gillham, and thinks of ways to stop his tribe leader from ruining his life. He thinks his life can’t get any more exciting—until he meets his mate.
Connor is human, and the only reason he’s in Gillham is to write about the pack for the Daily Beacon. He’s lucky enough to get an exclusive interview with Alpha Rhett, but things get weird when a small blond man with pointed ears tells him they’re mates right in the middle of the interview.
Connor is wary of the mate bond and insists he doesn’t believe in soul mates. Neriah is focused on changing Connor’s mind at all cost—and that includes by dating him. But Gillham isn’t the sleepy little town it used to be anymore, and the humans set against the pack are starting to create problems again. Connor risks losing Neriah forever when he’s kidnapped, and that makes him realize how much he cares for his mate.
Will that realization come too late?
Neriah bounced down the stairs after leaving the laundry basket on Zach’s bed. He wasn’t supposed to be doing laundry, but he’d been in the kitchen when the dryer had stopped, and everyone was in a super-secret meeting or something like that, so Neriah had made himself useful. He knew he didn’t need to—Zach and Kameron had repeated that enough times that Neriah believed them. That didn’t mean he didn’t want to show them how grateful he was. They’d welcomed him and his brother with open arms, and even Titus and Jarah.
The sounds of a baby crying drew Neriah toward the living room. He recognized the cry, as crazy as it sounded. He could distinguish between Nuna and Huritt, and he knew Huritt was the one going crazy.
Well, no one had told him he needed to stay away from the living room, although that probably had more to do with the fact that they were already all in there when he’d arrived than because they wanted him there. Still, it couldn’t be easy to talk over a crying baby, and Neriah was there. He might as well help.
He bounced into the living room. “Where’s my spider-monkey? Why’s he crying?”
Zach was holding the baby and trying to shush him, but he looked up and cocked his head when Neriah spoke. “How did you know he’s the one who’s crying?”
“Recognized it.” He couldn’t explain how, no matter how many times people asked him. Maybe it was his motherly instinct or something like that. He wiggled his fingers at Zach, wondering if Zach would give him Huritt or if he’d want to take care of the baby himself. He looked good with Huritt, and he’d certainly be better with him than with the couple who’d taken the twins in. They always looked nervous when they held the babies, making Neriah wonder why they’d even volunteered. “Come on. I can babysit him until you guys are done.”
To Neriah’s relief, Zach handed Huritt over without protesting. Neriah pressed Huritt close to his chest and cooed at him. “Aww, come on, baby. Don’t cry. I’ll give you back to daddy as soon as your diaper is changed.”
He grinned at Zach’s reaction, but he wasn’t taking them back. He really did think Zach and Kameron needed to adopt the twins. They’d be great fathers, and it was time they lived for something other than the pack. Besides, the twins needed a new family that wouldn’t freak out when they shifted into their wendigo form.
He turned around to leave the room. He needed to check Huritt’s diaper and maybe make him a bottle. Before he could go anywhere, though, his focus landed on a man sitting in the armchair. He was holding a notepad and a pen, and he seemed nervous, but also curious as he looked at Neriah and Huritt.
Neriah froze. He didn’t need more than a glance to know who the man was. He might not know the man’s name, who he was or what he was doing there, but one thing he was sure of—the man was his mate.
The man started shuffling in his seat after a few seconds of Neriah staring. That made Neriah want to smile—he made his mate nervous. But Huritt was still crying, so Neriah couldn’t just stand there and stare.
He patted Huritt’s back and headed for the door, but the thought of not knowing anything at all about his mate and possibly having to run after him once he was back made him stop. He leaned toward his mate and smiled. “I’ll be back soon.”
His mate’s eyebrows drew together. “I’m sorry?”
Neriah’s smile widened. “So we can get to know each other, mate.”
He didn’t wait for an answer. He left the room, cooing at Huritt and drying Huritt’s tears. His mate knew what they were to each other now, if he hadn’t before. Neriah wasn’t sure what his mate was, but he clearly wasn’t a Nix, so he might not have had the opportunity to sniff Neriah. Or maybe he was human.
Neriah didn’t care, as long as he found his mate in the living room when he was done cleaning Huritt up.
Zach had arranged one of the empty downstairs bedrooms for the kids. There was a changing table with tiny clothes and diapers in the drawers, some toys, both for babies and bigger children, and everything Neriah needed. He quickly changed Huritt—he’d gotten the hang of it in the past few days, and Huritt wasn’t the first baby he’d changed. The diapers Zach used were easier to deal with than the fabric ones the tribe had used, making everything faster.
Huritt had stuck his entire fist into his mouth by the time Neriah finished putting his clothes back on. He gently removed the fist and hummed. “So, are you hungry, little guy. You’re not crying anymore, but I’m ready to bet you will as soon as we go back to the living room and I sit down.”
Neriah could always send Zach or Geoffrey to make a bottle. He didn’t think he’d want to leave the living room once he got near his mate, and who would blame him? Certainly not Zack or Kameron, or Geoffrey or William.
He tickled Huritt’s stomach as he walked back to the living room. The people inside were talking again, but they all fell silent as soon as Neriah entered. Neriah’s mate looked up and inched deeper into his armchair, making Neriah wonder if he was afraid, but that was stupid. Why should he be afraid of Neriah of all people?