Cam has always known that his mating would be arranged by his father, and his best hope is for a mate who respects him and could eventually be friends with him. He has no choice in the matter and is resigned to the worst-case scenario of a mate he’ll end up hating for the rest of his life. His biggest worry is that he’ll no longer be able to keep his best friend in his life. If his mate says he can’t have friends, that will be the end of it and he won’t be able to say a thing against that decision. It’s his worst fear, and he can’t keep his tears at bay even during his own mating ceremony as he feels like he’s losing the only real friend he’s ever had.
Jenner isn’t entirely sure why his new mate looks like he’s going to his death. He wants to be friends with Cam, and his traditions make it hard to get close to him. His father wanted to make sure he fell in love before he was thirty and thought mating him to someone would be the best way to get that accomplished. Jenner is looking forward to getting to know his new mate, if only Cam will let that happen. The little glimpses he’s had of the real Cam tell him he’s been mated to a feisty man who won’t back down, and Jenner wants more time with that side of him and a lot less with the one who only wants to do what’s expected of them and looks absolutely miserable all the time.
Having an arranged mating isn’t ideal, but for Cam and Jenner it might be the best thing for them both.
Cam lifted his head at the sound of the obnoxiously loud and obviously drunk laughter coming from the other end of the bar. He had already been upset more than enough tonight, which explained the whiskey and honey over ice drink currently cooling his palm as he sat trying not to be noticed. It was bad enough his world was ending tomorrow and the asshat had to be joking with his friends while pushing them off bar stools not more than ten feet from him. He’d come to Wild for a little peace and quiet while escaping his family. That didn’t mean he didn’t have a bodyguard there with him, though. No, no of course not. He couldn’t ever go anywhere without one of his father’s men tagging along behind him to make sure he wasn’t kidnapped, killed, or otherwise maimed in a way that his future mate would find distasteful. Of course all of that was about to change tomorrow, when he was mated.
But for tonight Cam was annoyed and barely able to keep his long fingers from turning into claws as the guys at the other end of the bar continued to joke and laugh together as if their happiness was all that mattered. Cam felt at least one pair of eyes focus on him as he slid off his bar stool, his drink forgotten as he turned to look at his bodyguard. Yes, he knew he was there. Yes, he wasn’t going to do anything stupid. Telling a few drunk assholes to quiet the hell down was not stupid. Someone else was probably getting annoyed with them too. He felt like he was doing the world a favor as he walked right over to the one in the middle, met his gaze, and growled at him.
They stopped laughing as he faced the man down. He didn’t know what the man was, other than not prey. Because if he was prey he wouldn’t have looked quite so amused at Cam’s confrontation.
“You have something you want to say, pup?” the man taunted him. Beside him, his friends laughed.
He wasn’t a pup at all, in any sense of the word, but he didn’t get to say that, or anything else he wanted to, before his bodyguard wrapped a strong hand around him and pulled him back as if he was a child who needed protecting and not someone old enough to be mated in less than eight hours.
“He apologizes for interrupting your evening, gentlemen. Don’t you?”
His bodyguard’s dark look usually would have mattered to him. On any other night it would have for sure, and he would have been cowed into doing whatever he was expected to do. But he was giving up his life for his clan tomorrow, and he was done doing whatever anyone told him. “No.”
The guy at the bar laughed as Cam stared at his bodyguard’s tightening shoulders. He might be annoyed with him, but his bodyguard would never lay a hand on him. He couldn’t. Then he’d no longer be desirable for his future mate and the whole damn deal would go to hell.
His bodyguard turned to look over his shoulder at him, and despite knowing the man would never hurt him, Cam took a step back at the anger in the man’s eyes. He wasn’t used to seeing resentment there, that much hatred. And he definitely wasn’t used to seeing it all reflected back at him. He dropped his gaze and showed the bodyguard his submission.
“I apologize,” he quietly said. The words hurt as if each one was made of bile as they burned his throat, but he knew what was expected of him, and he still lived under his father’s rules until morning. “But they’re still noisy assholes.”
His bodyguard picked up a glass, spun, and threw it against the wall only inches from his head. The glass exploded beside his head before Cam could process the bodyguard’s movement. He stood frozen and wide-eyed as someone’s drink soaked into his shirt. The bodyguard hadn’t been aiming for his face. It had been a warning. But it was the closest anyone had ever come to actually hurting him.
“Go wait in the car. Now.”
This time Cam didn’t argue. Silence now reigned in the club. Everyone watched as he went back to where he’d been quietly enjoying his drink to grab his jacket. Seconds later he burst through the front doors of Wild and stormed over to his father’s luxurious black sedan.
Alone in the darkness of the back seat and surrounded by the rich smell of well-oiled leather, he growled low to himself. He’d been kicked out. It was unfair. And even worse, he’d been humiliated by his own bodyguard.
He was still growling when the bodyguard opened the driver’s door and came into the front seat. “You brought that on yourself,” he said as he started up the car.
“They were being loud and disruptive. I couldn’t even think in there.” Cam crossed his arms and glared at the man.
His bodyguard chuckled darkly and started driving them back to their hotel. “It’s a bar. You’re not supposed to be able to think. And, since you were out in public when you decided to invite trouble, I’ll have to tell your father about this episode.”