Cayden Rochette works as a negotiator for the Stone Ridge wolf pack. For decades he has worked behind the scenes with his alpha to secure peace for the pack’s future, which often leads to long stretches away from home. After one such assignment, he discovers a cat shifter staying in his house as his brothers’ guest. One sniff is all it takes to realize the small feline is his mate. Still, the Andean mountain cat is a shy shifter recently rescued from years of torture at the hands of scientists. The cat hasn’t even shifted, yet, even after staying with the wolves for weeks. With a little help from the mate-pull, Cayden earns the cat’s curiosity—if not his trust—enough for him to shift, anyway. That opens up a whole new world of questions. Ajax grew up away from shifters and knows little of their ways. Can Cayden convince the solitary shifter of the benefits of staying with him?
Cayden woke from his light doze to the feel of his body heating, and not from the heat of the sun. Blinking twice to get his eyes to focus, he struggled to understand what he was seeing. He peered up at the inquisitive green eyes of the small, pale man sitting beside him and leaning over him.
Elation flooded Cayden as recognition hit. He’d seen those eyes before. His pretty kitty had shifted for him.
“Hey,” Cayden whispered, a little worried he’d spook the small male. He shivered under his mate’s touch. “I’m glad you finally decided to change, mate,” he whispered. “What’s your name?”
“My name is Ajax,” the cat shifter answered in slow halting speech. His voice was quiet and a little rough, perhaps from disuse. “What is a mate?”
Cayden gaped for an instant. Ajax didn’t know what a mate was? How could that be? While those answers did interest him, from the cat shifter’s wide-eyed look, he knew he had other things to consider.
Ajax looked young, and with him being in captivity for who knew how long, just what kind of experience did the cat shifter have?
“You have not heard the term mate before?” Cayden clarified softly, watching the man’s reaction carefully.
Cocking his head, Ajax’s pale brown brows furrowed. He rested his hand on Cayden’s chest and rubbed over his muscle. It seemed like an absent movement, as if he didn’t even know he was doing it.
The soft stroking made it incredibly difficult for Cayden to concentrate. He’d finally found his mate, his one and only, and they were alone and naked in the great outdoors. He desperately wanted to pull Ajax onto his chest and claim his mouth, tasting him deeply.
Cayden knew he couldn’t. There was a lot to discuss first. Instead, he reached up slowly, mindful of how skittish the small man appeared to be. He settled one hand on Ajax’s right upper arm. Placing his other hand over his mate’s where it rested on his chest, he rubbed his thumb over the back of the soft-skinned fingers.
“When a shifter refers to another as their mate,” Cayden began slowly. “It means they consider that person the other half of their soul. That person is special to them.” Seeing Ajax’s confused expression, Cayden continued, hoping to express the importance of this without freaking out the other shifter. “They want to care for them. They want to know their mate is safe and happy.” He rubbed his left hand up and down Ajax’s arm. “To love them and please them.”
Ajax’s focus rested on Cayden’s chest. He moved his fingers just a little to the left, rubbing over Cayden’s nipple.
Cayden couldn’t hold in his gasp. He felt his nipple bead in response to his touch. Groaning softly, he squeezed Ajax’s hand and moved it to the side. He resisted the urge to look down at his cock, knowing it would be standing up begging for attention. Already it throbbed, just from having Ajax near and his hand on his chest.
“So, mates are important to shifters?” Ajax questioned. “And you think I am your mate?” He continued softly, lifting his gaze to meet Cayden’s eyes. “Why?”
“A shifter recognizes their mate by scent,” Cayden explained. He slid his hand up and down Ajax’s arm again. “For example, you smell like warm earth and fresh outdoors to me. I find it extremely arousing,” he admitted. “I want to rub all over you, so I can smell like that, too. I want to touch you, to feel your skin, to lick you and see if you taste as good as you smell.”
Ajax smiled, the look appearing tentative. “Your wolf did that already,” he murmured. “I liked it.”