Sei has had enough of dodging his mother’s and his aunt’s attempts to arrange a bonding for him since Clea mated with Christian. They don’t see a reason for him not to bond with someone they choose, but he doesn’t care about traditions. He wants the real deal when it comes to mating—love, lust, and a happily ever after.
Donovan is the liaison between the pack and the federal government in Washington, D.C. His job isn’t running around the city rescuing street kids, but he wants to help the pack, and those kids. The last thing he expects from his impromptu mission is to meet his mate.
When Sei is overwhelmed by a crowd of reporters who have come to Gillham to find out more about shifters, he’s rescued by a bear shifter. He recognizes Donovan as his mate only once Donovan shifts, and he doesn’t let the occasion slip away. They mate within hours of their first meeting, but Sei hasn’t considered the complications that will come with it.
The attacks on the pack are escalating, Donovan’s son is vehement about his dislike of Sei, and Donovan doesn’t know what to do. Will he have to choose between his mate and his son? What can he do to keep the pack safe? Will this be the moment everything falls apart?
Sei sighed. “I’m not going to bond with her.”
His aunt cocked her head, as if she didn’t understand what he was saying, or why he was saying it. “But why not?”
Sei had already been over this more than enough times that his aunt should know the answer. It obviously didn't mean she wouldn’t ask again, though.
He gave her one of the two answers he always gave her. “Because I’m gay.”
Sei’s aunt waved his words away. “I don’t see how that’s a problem.”
“Uh, maybe because you expect me to have sex with her.”
Her gaze flickered to Sei’s groin and he resisted the urge to cover himself. “Will that be a problem?” she asked.
“Unless she grows a dick, yeah.”
He sighed—again. It seemed to be something he often did when he was with his aunt or his mother. How had Clea managed to grow up sane of mind with Aunt Pryderi? “Sorry. I know you mean well, but I don’t think I’ll ever have sex with a woman, let alone bond with her.”
Aunt Pryderi pouted. “But what about children?”
“You’ll get grandkids from Clea.”
“How will you give my sister grandchildren, though?”
“I’m sure I’ll find a way once I’m in a relationship. I could adopt.”
Sei’s aunt sighed. “But Nadhia is such a sweet girl. She was looking forward to bonding.”
“Yeah, with Clea. I don’t really like the fact that Clea and me seem to be interchangeable to her.”
“She’s already thirty-three. She knows she probably won’t have another chance.”
Sei snorted. “Thirty-three? God, does that mean she’s old or something?”
“Well, she’s not in her prime anymore.”
“She’s only thirty-three!” Sei leaned against the back of his chair. “We live more than a hundred years. How is being a few years over thirty not being in her prime anymore? She can probably have kids until well in her seventies.”
Sei didn’t think there was a way to get through to his aunt, no matter how much he insisted. He didn’t really care unless she continued to insist in bonding him with Clea’s rejected bride. No matter how wide Nadhia’s hips were, Sei wasn’t going to have sex with her, in any way, shape, or form. He’d rather cut his dick off. Well, not really, but he wasn’t sure he’d even be able to get it up for a woman, even if he were willing to try.
He reached over the table and patted his aunt’s hand. “Look, I understand you want me to be happy and everything, but that’s not the way to do it.”
“Arranged bondings can make you happy.”
Sei knew how he wanted to answer that, but he also knew both his parents and his aunt had bonded after their own parents had arranged it. It didn’t matter that he thought it was an antiquated tradition and that they really should stop doing stuff like that. His aunt believed in it, and she wouldn’t budge from that opinion.
“I know that,” he finally said. “I know you’re happy with Uncle Chaltan, and that Mom and Dad are happy too. It’s just not for me.”
His aunt bit her lower lip. “I could find you a man.”
Sei shook his head. This was a big concession for her, and he loved her for trying. It wasn’t enough, though. “I know you could, but it wouldn’t change anything, not for me. I don’t want to bond with someone I don’t love.”
Sei wasn’t exactly waiting for his mate to pop up anytime soon, but he hoped the man would anyway. There was no way he was getting bonded to anyone but his mate, and his aunt would have to understand that.
“You’d fall in love eventually,” his aunt insisted.
“I want to be in love before I bond. I want to choose who I’ll spend the rest of my life with, and I want to know him before we do. I want to know his good sides and his bad ones, and I want him to know mine.”
Sei’s aunt was looking at him with what might be pity in her eyes. She probably thought he was a fool for expecting love from a bonding. Arranged bondings didn’t care about love—they cared about what was practical and what would bring advantages to the families involved.
Sei thought it was a cold way to deal with something that should be anything but cold, but who was he to argue? Unless it involved him, he wasn’t going to. Everyone had their own beliefs, and his happened to be different from his aunt’s. It didn’t mean he didn’t love her, or that she didn’t love him. Just that they didn’t understand each other.
“So you’re saying no?” she asked, and Sei hated to squash the hope in her voice.
“Yes. I’m saying no. I’m sorry, but I just can’t do it.”
She stared at him. “You might never meet him, you know?”
Sei didn’t need to ask who she was talking about. “I know, but it doesn’t mean I’ll stop hoping. Maybe in twenty or thirty years I’ll have lost hope, but even then, it doesn’t mean I’ll say yes to an arranged bonding. I want to choose the man I share my life with myself, Aunt Pryderi. Sorry.”
“It’s fine.” She shrugged. “I didn’t expect you to agree.”
Sei gaped at her. “Why did you even try, then?”
“I had to. I know you’re as stubborn as Clearrain is, though.”
Sei wrinkled his nose. “He’d have said yes if he hadn’t met Christian.”
“Maybe, but I know he didn’t want to bond.”
“Why did you go ahead, then?” Sei knew his aunt loved Clea. She’d never willingly hurt him. That was why Sei had never understood why she insisted that Clea bonded even though she knew it would make him unhappy.