[Siren Classic ManLove: Alternative Paranormal Romance, MM, shape-shifter, HEA]
Ten years ago, the love of his life broke Reggie’s heart. Reggie’s never learned to move on, but he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life alone. Reggie signs up with the Mated Happily Ever After agency only to find out he’s been paired with Hunter. The angry boy he knows is all grown up, and Hunter’s made it clear he won’t take refusal for an answer.
What did he know about the guy the agency was sending him to meet? Practically nothing, because Mr. Mysterious decided he wanted their first meeting to be a surprise. They didn’t even talk on the phone, so Reggie had never even heard his voice.
What if the guy ended up being a psycho? Reggie recalled reading an article online about a shifter who took his girlfriend to the woods, only to end up eating her. Reggie shuddered. Those incidents were rare, he knew, but even now, there was a reason cross-species dating rarely occurred. Humans stuck to their own side of the fence. Same with the paranormal.
That was why Mated Happily Ever After catered to a special niche. If word came out that he was dating a shifter back at the office, his co-workers would start calling him a furry banger or other worse names. Not that it mattered. Even in the customer service company he worked at for five years, few work colleagues remembered his name.
More words his other dates used to describe him.
“Stop it,” he told his reflection. “Less negative thoughts and more positive self-talk.”
The bathroom door swung open, and the guy who entered gave him a strange look before heading over to the urinals. He could feel his face burning. Reggie splashed more water on his face before returning to his table, except someone was already sitting in his chair.
The blast from his past flashed him a smile that rooted Reggie to his spot and made his insides melt. How could a simple smile be both sexy and predatory at once? He swallowed, wondering if he was seeing an illusion.
“I thought you’d run out on me. It’s good to see you again, Reg.”
Reg. Only Hunter called him that, but how could Hunter be in Lester City? Still, this titan of a man wearing that cocky grin had the same short black hair and brown flecked with gold eyes of the boy he’d loved. Reggie would have given his heart to him, if Hunter let him.
Time had left its mark on this man, leaving souvenirs of the past. This Hunter, this stranger, was cut, tanned from the sun, and he didn’t hide the old scars, rake marks across his arms. More of those peeked out from the collar of Hunter’s shirt, as if he’d seen his fair share of battles.
Reggie’s chest hurt. It felt so hard to breathe.
“What’s wrong? Aren’t you going to give your mate a hug?”
That voice, deep and arrogant, seemed able to cut into his skin and go right to his heart. Reggie broke paralysis and ran, hating himself for every step he took. There. Reggie sighted the door. He grabbed the door handle, yanked it open. Fresh hair. The familiar smells of the city. Smog, cigarette smoke, and garbage.
Maybe he fainted back in the bathroom or something. That was it. This must be some kind of horrible nightmare come alive, because Reggie House never ran away from anything or anybody. Hunter did all the running. Not him.
A hand landed on his shoulder, big and heavy. That hand used to give him comfort. Reggie shut his eyes tight, wanting to put his hand over Hunter’s, give it a squeeze, but he only shoved it away. He turned to face Hunter. Amusement fled Hunter’s gaze, replaced by a contemplative look. Hunter frowned, drew his eyebrows together, something Hunter did in the past when he was thinking too deeply.
There was a scar right across his left eyebrow. That was new. Reggie was tempted to run his thumb across the faded white line, ask Hunter where he got that. Shifters possessed accelerated regenerative abilities. That meant whatever caused that and those old scars across Hunter’s arms, they were serious.
What the hell was he doing?
If Reggie started caring again, started getting to know Hunter again, Hunter would only break his heart. Again. Leave him in pieces, and it took him most of his early twenties to get over Hunter.
No. Reggie lied to himself. Scars of that kind never truly healed.
Reggie glared at Hunter. “What are you doing here? In Lester City? How did you even find me?”
“If you’re my mate, you shouldn’t be talking to me like that.” A teasing reprimand. The old Hunter he knew didn’t tease, didn’t flirt, wasn’t even capable of light-hearted talk. Just who was this man, who managed to set his heart aflutter?
Reggie didn’t like feeling this way, like his insides had been scraped raw. Vulnerable. After Hunter, he’d dated men here and there but never fully opened himself up to them the way he did with Hunter. Reggie vowed never to make that mistake again.
“That’s the second time you called me that. What the fuck are you talking about?”
Hunter took something from the back pocket of his jeans, a folded piece of paper, and showed it to him. Reggie stared, open-mouthed at a familiar-looking contract from Mated Happily Ever After.
“No. You’re Mr. Mysterious?” he whispered.
“Is that what you call me?” Hunter asked, not commenting when Reggie snatched the piece of paper.
Shit. It looked authentic, even had the same signatures, as well.
“What else? The agency said you refused to divulge your name,” he said, slapping the contract back into Hunter’s chest. It felt like solid wall. Reggie refused to think what Hunter looked like under that shirt, probably all hard planes of muscle.
He shook his head. Don’t go there, he reminded himself, but God. Back then, Hunter already had the same effect on him. Just when Reggie thought he’d closed that door to the past, here he was again.
Reggie needed to think fast.
“Why don’t we head back inside? Have some coffee and talk more?” Hunter suggested, folding up that dratted piece of paper again.
That paper might as well say Reggie belonged to him, one Reggie blindly signed. Not true, either. Reggie knew the risks but decided to go with the agency anyway, because he refused to spend the rest of his life alone. At the very least, he’d hoped for a compatible mate. A friend, an equal. Not Hunter. Never him.
“I need to tell you something.”
“I,” Reggie began and seemed unable to continue. Hunter frowned, paused from his task to study his human. Reggie looked dead serious, contemplative. Reggie’s cheeks and neck turned pink. “I need you know I’m a virgin.”
Hunter expected Reggie to change his mind, tell him some awful secret, but this? This admission was more of a wonderful surprise. He let out a rumble of approval. “Good.”
“What? That’s all you’re going to say?” Reggie easily shrugged off his initial shyness, replaced it with the same fire in his eyes that Hunter always loved.
“Yes, you know why?” Hunter pressed a hand to Reggie’s chest, urging Reggie to lie down on the blanket.
“Because then, I’ll be the first man in you, the only one that’ll ever claim this sweet body of yours.”
Reggie blushed again. “So confident?”
“Too late for regrets now, baby. The moment you agreed to go on a drive with me, you should have known.”
“That you’re doomed, because there’s no going back after this.”
Reggie sucked in a breath. “Don’t be overdramatic. We’re both adults. I know what I want, and that’s you.”
Hunter smiled. “Understand one thing. You’re mine for life. My mate. Whatever or whoever comes between us is a dead man.”
* * * *
Reggie shuddered at those words but didn’t correct Hunter. He’d been skeptical when Hunter and he met for the first time in a long while at that café, but not anymore. Somehow, destiny brought him back here, full circle, to the man who always owned his heart.
Ten years made him harder, a cynic when it came to relationships. Hunter always had a way of pulling him in, but he didn’t want to resist. What did Reggie have waiting back in the city for him? An empty apartment he only used to sleep in and his horrible boss?
Mine for life.
Another man would have been frightened of those words. Not him, because this was his Hunter, and there was one truth he’d never admitted, even to himself. Even after Hunter’s rejection, he kept loving Hunter, had a hard time letting him go.
Maybe there was a reason for that.
“Okay,” he murmured, the only response he was capable of giving.
He moved his gaze up the length of Hunter’s hard body, to the massive prick curving up against Hunter’s belly. Hunter lowered himself, sealed his mouth over his.
Pure bliss. All his problems at work, with his non-existent social life, ebbed away. So good, he thought.
The kiss turned rough, but he only dug his nails into Hunter’s skin. Hunter pulled his mouth away, left more kisses, more tiny bites down the line of his neck, his chest. If he went back to work on Monday, everyone would see these love bites, but fuck work.
Nothing else seemed to matter except this moment. Reggie sunk his fingers into Hunter’s hair, moaning as Hunter took one flat nipple in his mouth and sucked at it. He groaned as Hunter bit down, leaving a bite mark there. At the same time, Hunter began playing with his dick.
He shifted, found himself thrusting his hips forward so his cock would repeatedly come in contact with Hunter’s large, callused hand. Hunter stopped abruptly, making him hiss in protest.
“Why did you do that?” he demanded.
Hunter gave him a predatory smile. “I don’t want you coming too soon. On your knees.”
The erotic image of Hunter rutting him from behind like a beast made him get into position. How often had he imagined Hunter fucking him like this for the first time? Those fantasies hadn’t ended when he was a teenager, either. During lonely nights in his apartment, he’d dreamt of Hunter having his way with him, doing dirty things to him.
Hunter reached for his jeans and pulled out a tube lube. Wait a second. Hunter anticipated this, or could it be—
“How convenient,” he couldn’t help but comment.
Hunter was a fine man, a damn catch. Reggie wouldn’t be surprised if he had a string of lovers under his belt. He had no right to be jealous, but he was. How strange was that? He’d always seen as Hunter as his. They belonged to each other. That had been written in the stars ever since they first met.
“This? I brought it, just in case things turned out this way. Guess it paid off,” Hunter said with that easy grin that made it incredibly hard for Reggie to stay mad at him. Damn this cocky bear.
“You say that to all the men you bring here?” he demanded.
Hunter stood in front of him and bent down, so they looked at each other eye-to-eye. Hunter’s expression grew intense, and Reggie regretted his words instantly. Hunter could never hide his feelings.
“I’ve never brought anyone here. The moment I saw this place, I knew it was special. For our eyes only,” Hunter said firmly. “And as for other men?” Hunter scoffed, cupped his cheek, and kissed him, this time slowly and tenderly. His dick stood at attention, already leaking pre-cum.
“Reggie, you’re the only one for me. Before you, I only had regrets. You’re the missing piece of my heart and soul. My bear knows it, too.”