Sterling is only twenty-two, so the last thing he expects when he attends the Gillham pack Halloween party is to meet his mate. Adam is even younger than Sterling, only twenty, and he lives in Whitedell. They agree to date, and everything goes well—until it doesn’t.
Adam is still getting used to having met his mate when tragedy strikes. Sterling’s parents are killed in an accident, leaving him in charge of his three siblings and heartbroken. The time isn’t right for love, and Adam has to make a decision.
Is he ready to be there for Sterling through his loss and dealing with a new life in which he’s responsible for three lives? Or will the sudden pressure be too much for him? And with everything that’s going on, will Sterling be able to open himself up to love and a possible future with his mate?
Sterling knew his eyes were wide, but he didn’t even care. He’d never met a harpy. Hell, he’d never even seen a harpy, yet there Hugo was, smiling as if it were perfectly normal. Of course, pretty much everything was normal during a Halloween party, but still.
Hugo’s friends walked up to them, and Sterling stopped caring about the harpy. He couldn’t get his eyes to move away from Hugo’s other friend. Even dressed up as James Bond, the man was gorgeous. Or maybe it was thanks to the tux? Sterling didn’t know, and he didn't care.
Hugo turned toward Sterling. “These are my friends Adam and Aaron. They live in Whitedell, with the pride. Guys, this is Sterling. He’s one of my best friends.”
Sterling grinned. They hadn’t had the time or the opportunity to spend a lot of time together since Hugo had become a dad, but Sterling didn’t care. He wasn’t going anywhere, unlike a lot of their common friends. Hell, he was ready to admit—albeit only to himself—that he was jealous of Hugo. He wasn’t ready to be a father, but he wanted what Hugo and Leo had. They were happy, and it showed. Hugo glowed in a way he never had before. He laughed more easily, and the stress of being a single dad had all but melted off once Leo had walked into his life.
So yeah, Sterling might not be ready to have kids, but he was ready to have a relationship.
Aaron nodded at Sterling. He looked bored, even though his gaze moved along the crowd. Sterling remembered being sixteen, so he wasn’t offended. He nodded back and turned to Adam. Adam smiled at him and offered him his hand. Sterling took it. He couldn’t look away.
He didn’t know what it was—Adam’s dark hair, his twinkling brown eyes, the way his tuxedo wrapped around him like a glove or the way he looked at Sterling like he wanted to eat him. Maybe all of them.
Adam leaned closer. “How did I never meet you?”
“I don’t know. How long have you been Hugo’s friend?”
“A while. You?”
“All my life.”
“Maybe it’s because I live in Whitedell.”
“Maybe.” Sterling was aware Adam was still holding his hand, and that he was rubbing his thumb against the pulse point of Sterling’s wrist. It felt good. It felt great.
Hugo cleared his throat. “I think I’m going to go home.”
Sterling was dismayed when Adam let go of his hand to turn toward Hugo to ask, “So soon?”
Hugo shrugged. “I’m not really into parties anymore.”
Adam grinned. He was still close enough that their bodies brushed together every time they moved. Sterling wanted to lean even closer and take a good sniff of Adam’s scent. He imagined Adam smelled of the forest and maybe spices, or lemon. He wanted to find out more than he’d ever wanted anything, or at least that was what it felt like.
“You’re a dad now.”
“Not just a dad.”
Adam’s smile widened. “Right. You’re also a mate. You want to go back to your man, don’t you?”
Adam slung his arm around Hugo’s shoulders, and Sterling tried to ignore the pinch of jealousy in his chest. Hugo was happily mated. He wasn’t interested in Adam. He only had eyes for Leo.
“Come on,” Adam coaxed. “Stay another while. Half an hour. I haven’t seen you in too long.”
“Fine. Half an hour.”
Sterling hated that he wanted Hugo to leave right now. He hadn’t had the occasion to talk to Hugo for too long, and he’d been looking forward to spending the evening together. What the fuck was wrong with him?
Adam whooped. “Great! Come on, what have you been up to lately? You need to come to the mansion. Dad’s been saying he wants to see your kid.”
“I think he’s trying to convince Dad to have another one.”
Hugo laughed. Sterling had no idea what they were talking about, and he hated it. He hated feeling like he didn’t belong in that conversation even though neither Hugo nor Adam had told him to leave.
“How old is Olivia again?” Hugo asked.
“And Jeremy already wants another one? You couldn’t pay me to have another kid right now.”
“Yeah, but Ennis is only a few months old. Dad already had to wait so long to have Olivia. He doesn’t want to waste any more time.”
“It’s not like he’s getting too old.”
“Nah. He just turned forty-five, but Dad’s a hundred and nine.”
Sterling grimaced. That was a hell of an age difference. Not the biggest he knew—Zach and Kameron owned that record—but still. Sterling understood why one of Adam’s fathers wanted to have more kids as soon as possible.
Sterling idly listened to the conversation between Hugo and Adam. He couldn’t focus, but that was okay. He didn’t know most of the people they were talking about, and it gave him the opportunity to look at Adam. Adam didn’t seem to mind, not with the way he, too, looked at Sterling every so often, and Sterling couldn’t help the smile that grew a little more every time it happened. He was pretty sure he knew where his evening was going to end and with whom, and it wasn’t alone in his bed at home.
He couldn’t wait.
He’d thought he was over one-night stands a while ago, but he’d make an exception for Adam. He realized they probably wouldn’t see each other again, and if they did, it would be because of Hugo, but that was okay. They were both adults, and surely, they could have sex and leave it at that, no hard feelings.
Sterling licked his lips. Yeah, he was looking forward to the rest of the evening, and if the glances Adam was giving him were an indication of anything, so was Adam.