Asmund knows he’s put off marriage too long. With his two closest friends happily mated to members of the wolf pack, he allows himself to be talked into hosting a ball to find himself a wife. He’s spent too many years waiting for the perfect person to simply fall into his lap.
But just days before the ball, a wolf shifter with a hint of ancient fae blood messes up all his plans. Vadik says the king is his mate, and Asmund knows that shifters are never wrong. But Asmund needs heirs, which the Beta wolf can’t give him, so he knows he must stay strong and convince Vadik to walk away, despite their attraction. The hardest part proves to be convincing himself that this man, who seems to fulfill every fantasy he’s ever had, isn’t right for him.
Be Warned: m/m sex
Footsteps sounded outside, and Vadik went to the door and flung it open. He saw Asmund about to shut his door, and the king paused in this action when he saw Vadik.
Asmund acknowledged him with a nod. “Is everything all right with your room?”
“Yes. It’s a bit frilly, but I don’t mind.”
Asmund stepped back out into the hallway. “I’m sure Erik enjoyed telling you who that room is normally reserved for.”
“He did get a kick out of it.” Vadik nodded to the room. “Does someone actually keep it clean, or is it done by magic?”
“It’s cleaned regularly, but when I opened the door earlier, I set a little spell to work to clear the dust and air the room out.”
“Did you really think no one would tell me?”
“I wasn’t thinking at all. It was just a matter of convenience.” Asmund’s hands went to his hips, a gesture Vadik once again found somehow thrilling. “Look, we’ve already established what you do to my ability to think clearly. And I—”
“Have we?” Vadik said, cutting the king off as he strode across the hall. “I’d love to hear more about that.”
Asmund held both hands up. “You have to stop. I can’t be seen openly keeping a lover so close to the Briod Ball. It’s disrespectful. Ungentlemanly.”
“Ungentlemanly? Seems a gentleman would cancel such an event after finding his fated mate. Don’t honor and duty apply to fate as well? I believe Luke said that you told him fate had brought our people together.”
“That is not what I said. I said I thought he and Gregor had come to the fae court for a reason.”
“At least you admit to saying it.”
“Of course I do. Lying is dishonorable.”
“Then tell me how you really feel about me.”
The king stared at him a long moment. “I already told you I find you desirable. And I admire many things about you. I’ve told you my reasons for resisting you. My own feelings and desires come second and always will. I don’t know of any other way to say it.”
“Call off the ball for now. Allow me to court you. If you can’t love me, I’ll accept that, and then you can do whatever you want, but I won’t keep listening to these excuses.”
“Excuses? The duty that has been a part of every moment of my life? My responsibility to my people?”
“There’s a line of succession for a reason. Things happen. People die. Or they’re unfit or unwilling to rule.” He paused briefly before saying, “And people fall in love. Even kings.”
The king’s gaze wavered a moment, but then he shook his head. “It’s best for a child to succeed a parent. Things go better. Run more smoothly. There’s less fighting and squabbling and division. The people feel more secure with an established heir. It’s so much easier.”
Vadik frowned. “You’d send me away just to make things easier in a future we know nothing about?”
Asmund’s eyes flashed at him before narrowing. “That is not what I said!”
Pain blossomed in Vadik’s chest as he stood to his full height. “But it’s what you meant.” He turned on his heels and strode back to his room, worried he would say something cruel in his agitated state. His need to claim his mate warred with his plans to be patient.
Before he reached the door, something brought him to a halt. Again, he felt resistance in the air. Asmund came around to face him and glared up at him, poking a finger in his chest the way he had earlier that day.
“You don’t get to do that. You don’t get to rile me up and insult me and then just walk away!”
Vadik took the king’s upraised hand and drew it to his heart, knowing the other man would feel how hard it was pounding. He wanted the king to feel it, to know how he affected Vadik. “Yet you get to toy with me? Saying that you want me but that we can’t be together practically in the same sentence?”
Asmund opened his mouth, but he said nothing, looking down.