Noem is the pride’s nurse. He loves what he does, even though he’d seen far too many wounded since the hunters decided they had a problem with the pride. Still, it’s better than what his future would have been back with his tribe, and he’s as happy as he can be.
Kay has known about shifters and the tribe since Troy, his best friend, gave birth to a son. He moved to Whitedell to be close to Troy and the baby, but he’s still wary about shifters, and he doesn’t have a good opinion of them. If it were up to him, he’d stay as far away as he could, but it would mean losing Troy again, and he’s not ready for that.
Noem didn't expect to meet his mate in the mansion’s kitchen, but then he also didn't expect Kay to tell him to his face that he doesn’t like shifters and paranormal creatures. After talking, they agree to try to date, but the uploading of a video showing a man shifting into a wolf might make Noem’s entire world crumble. Will Noem and Kay be able to get over it and stay together? And if they do, what will happen with the hunters still lurking?
Noem was fucking hungry. He’d been working too much lately—not enough time to eat and sleep. Benjamin stupidly tearing his stitches out and reopening his wounds today hadn’t helped. He was fine now, of course, but Noem still had to recuperate. Healing took a lot out of him, even though he’d been trying to build his resistance up. He couldn’t allow himself to be weak, not with the hunters being dicks and killing people he cared about.
The kitchen wasn’t empty when he strode in. John was at the counter, quietly talking with a guy Noem didn’t think he knew. He looked familiar, but Noem was pretty sure it was because he had the same military look John and half the people living with the pride had. Heck, he himself had cut his hair short as soon as he’d arrived in Whitedell. That was where the look stopped on him, though, since he usually wore scrubs, and when he didn’t, he stuck to comfy clothes.
Noem nodded at the men at the counter and opened the fridge. He’d missed breakfast because he’d overslept. It didn’t really matter, since Benjamin had been the only one to need his help in the past few weeks. Well, there was the hunter in the infirmary, but Noem had done everything he could for him. Now they were waiting for him to wake up to check whether everything was fine in his head. Something obviously wasn’t, since he was a hunter, but there was nothing Noem could do to heal that.
The last thing Noem wanted was to cook, so he’d have to go with cereal, milk, and juice. He grabbed the orange juice just as he heard someone else enter the room.
Someone—Benjamin, Noem recognized his voice by now. How could he not, when Benjamin was always whining about being stuck in the infirmary or in his room?
Benjamin said, “How do you take it? Wait, don’t tell me. I bet you drink it black, just like your soul.”
Noem snickered as someone else answered, “The quiet one, huh?”
Noem turned around just in time to hear Benjamin answer, “I swear.”
There was another man at the counter now, and as soon as Noem saw him, he knew. He didn’t recognize the guy, even though he was obviously at ease in the mansion, so he’d probably already been there. It didn’t matter. Whether Noem recognized him or not, the guy was his mate.
The jug of orange juice Noem had extracted from the fridge slipped from his fingers. It crashed on the floor, jerking him out of his thoughts, but that wasn’t enough for him to look away from his mate, not even when the hem of his too-long jeans started soaking up the juice.
“Noem?” Benjamin asked as if he were afraid to startle him.
Noem jerked toward him. “Yes?”
“Are you all right?”
Noem knew he couldn’t just stand there and stare, so he shook himself and finally stepped away from the orange puddle. “Yeah, I... I’m fine.” He wasn’t. He didn’t feel fine, and he hated not being in control. He couldn’t help it, though, not in this case.
“You sure don’t look like you are.”
Noem wished Benjamin would shut up, but he knew better. Ever since he’d found his mate, Benjamin had come out of his shell. He wasn’t as chatty as Nysys—thank god for small mercies—but he wasn’t as quiet anymore. Noem wasn’t sure he liked it, especially when it put him in the spotlight.
Noem’s mate got up and came closer. “Where can I find some rags?” he asked, looking from Noem to the puddle.
Noem blinked at him. How was he supposed to think when the man he’d spend the rest of his life with was standing in front of him? “Rags?”
“To clean up.”
“Hey, do you guys know each other?” Benjamin asked, interrupting Noem’s contemplation of the way his mate’s lips twitched in an almost smile.
Noem’s mate looked at Benjamin. “No, I never saw him before now.”
The smile on Benjamin’s face grew, and for some reason, Noem was convinced he knew. Fuck.
“Oh. I understand,” Benjamin said, his gaze going from Noem to his mate, then back to Noem.
Yeah, he knew. Noem finally shook himself. He strode to the sink, mentally cursing his soaked jeans, and crouched to get rags out of the cupboard. He dropped all of them in the sink, drenched them in water, and took a few back to the puddle. His mate had picked the jug up, but it was empty now. At least it hadn’t been completely full.
Noem took the jug and went to put it next to the sink. When he turned, his mate was on his knees, cleaning up, and Noem groaned at the sight of that ass moving from side to side.
“His name’s Kay,” Benjamin whispered right next to him, scaring the shit out of him.
“Yeah, okay.” Noem didn’t want to admit Kay was his mate, not right now. He needed to wrap his own mind around it before announcing it to the pride—or the world, since the pride might as well be his entire world.
Benjamin snickered, but Noem ignored him and went to help clean up the floor. He kneeled next to Kay. “You don’t have to do this. It’s my mess, not yours.”
Kay looked at him. His gaze lingered on Noem’s ears. He probably wasn’t used to the pointiness of them, but he didn’t look long. “I’m just cleaning up orange juice. It’s no big deal.”
“I’m sure you’re not here to clean up orange juice.”
“No, but it’s okay.”
Noem stopped insisting and pressed his lips together. “Why are you here then?”
Kay looked like he didn’t want to answer, but he did anyway. “Work.” Well, that didn’t give Noem a lot of clues, but still. It was a step forward.