Sometimes the thing you hate the most takes you to the love of your life.
Dire Wolf Shifter, Angel, may be the youngest of four brothers, but that doesn't make him the stupidest. He knows that Valentine's Day is nothing but one big joke. It's just a way for candy and card shops to make extra money. How does he know this? Because there is no such thing as true love. Every man he's met has proven this by stomping on his heart, leaving him bitter and jaded. Fellow Dire Wolf, Baily, has always had a crush on Angel, but he never acted on it. As one of Angel's older brother's best friends, Baily had never thought the time was right or appropriate. But as he sees Angel hurting, Baily can't stop himself from reaching out to the younger man. Will Baily be able to show Angel that there is such a thing as true love? Or had Angel's heart grown too hard?
Angel let out a muttered curse as he passed yet another store that had nothing but pink and red displayed in its front window. Hearts...flowers...cupids...bows...arrows, they were all there in their glittery glory. If they'd been alive, Angel swore he would shift into his Dire Wolf form just so he could go for their throats.
It wasn't like they lived in a big town, either. Holly only had a small uptown and an even smaller downtown, but damned if Angel didn't have to drive through both of them to reach his home. He lived with his three brothers in a big house that stood in the middle of a ton of acreage. They needed the land so they could shift and run in solitude without the threat of coming across human hunters. Yes, believe it or not, even though their animal counterparts were extinct, there were humans who knew of the shifter kind. Thus, Angel and his kind were hunted down viciously. Dire Wolf pelts brought in a huge prize on the black market.
Most of Angel's neighbors were Dire Wolves, too. Although he wouldn't go so far as to call them a pack, they did always go to his oldest brother, Bishop, whenever there was a grievance or a problem. So did that make him the Alpha?
Angel shook his head. The thought of that was just laughable. His brother? An Alpha? Yeah, right, and what did that make Angel, an Omega? He shuddered. He was glad they had long ago put those old customs behind them and caught up to modern times. Just because Angel had blond hair, blue eyes, and was the runt of the litter didn't mean squat. Except that maybe he needed to check into drinking a daily protein shake or two.
It sure as hell didn't mean he was a punching bag. Something his last boyfriend had found out the hard way. For while Angel might look weak, he was stronger than any human, and that's what said boyfriend just so happened to be. He got in one good slap on Angel. Angel had punched him in return, and that had been that for their relationship.
As he pulled into the long drive that led up to their big farmhouse, he noted that the vehicles belonging to his other brothers, Darien and Corey, were absent. They must either be at work or on dates, because they had...barf...Valentines...this year. Those shmucks.
There was one car that Angel didn't recognize. But since he didn't detect the scent of fear in the air, he knew that it didn't mean any danger to them. Still, when he got closer to it, he gave the car a good sniff just to see if he recognized the owner. When he got a good whiff, his stomach flipped over.
Baily! What in the hell was he doing here? He was supposed to be off at that fancy job of his.
Angel put a hand over his stomach. Why, oh, why, did Baily have to choose this day to come and visit? It was like somebody had given Angel a paper cut and was now rubbing salt in it.
Well, it wasn't like Angel could stay out there all day. He might as well go in and face Baily. The sooner, the better. Then Angel could go hide out in his bedroom for the rest of the visit.
Angel walked into the side door that led into the kitchen and was greeted by Baily and Bishop right away. Shit! Why couldn't they have been in the living room or something? But no, they had to be right there so Angel saw Baily right away.
Angel had hoped that in the years that Baily had been away in college and then at his job as a lawyer, Angel's infatuation for the other man would have died. One look at Baily quashed that idea. If anything, Baily looked better. From his dark, chestnut hair cut short in a business style to his dark brown eyes that were framed with the longest lashes, he was still a dream come true. Angel allowed his gaze to travel down Baily's body. What a body it was, too. Trim, tall and muscular, Baily wore a T-shirt and a pair of tight jeans, leaving nothing to the imagination.
Damn, damn and double damn. Angel had worked hard for years to keep his crush on Baily a secret, and now the jerk just had to get better looking. He could have had the consideration to at least grow a paunch or something. It would have made things a lot easier on Angel.
"Are you going to say something, Angel, or are you going to stay there staring all night?" Bishop asked.
Angel shot his brother a dirty look. Like most Dire Wolves, his brother had dark hair and eyes. Angel was the only one who had blond hair. Which made him the freak in the bunch. Yay him!
"I was just shocked to see Baily here. I thought his work had transferred him to Florida," Angel retorted as he began to take off his boots and coat.
"Not anymore. They moved me up here. So I'll be your neighbor again," Baily said.
Angel paused, boot in midair, dripping all over the floor. "Really?"
"Yeah. So what about you? What have you been doing with yourself?"
Angel snapped out of his shock and finished taking his boots off. "I've been going to the local college and working at the hardware store in town."
"And he's been as grumpy as hell for the past two weeks," Bishop added.
"Leave it," Angel warned as he went over and poured himself a cup of coffee.
"Oh no. You know we can't do that. Spill," Baily said.
"Angel here hates Valentine's Day so he's been one grumpy Dire Wolf," Bishop confided.
"What? Why would you hate Valentine's Day so much?" Baily asked, his eyes wide.
"Because it's a loser holiday that's made up just to make single people feel bad about themselves," Angel replied in a dull voice.
"You're alone because all you've ever dated is humans," Bishop pointed out.
"In case you haven't noticed, none of the Dire Wolves are exactly lining up at the door wanting to date me. Nobody wants the runt in the litter," Angel said.
Ouch, did it hurt to say that, and in front of Baily no less. But it was the truth. The other male Dire Wolves just didn't find Angel attractive. They liked their prospective mates to be big and strong. Not little and scrawny. It was a fact that Angel was getting used to...or at least he was trying to.
Angel grabbed his mug. "Now if you guys will excuse me, I'm going up to my room. I'm sure you have a lot of catching up to do."
Angel practically ran up the stairs to his room. Once there, he shut the door and put his back against it. So much for him not making a fool out of himself in front of Baily. In the span of a few minutes, Angel had managed to do that and more.
He was so lost in berating himself that when somebody knocked on the door, Angel jumped. In the process, he spilled some coffee on himself. Letting out a muttered curse, he set the mug down on his dresser, then answered the door.
When he saw that it was Baily standing there, Angel almost swallowed his tongue. What in the hell could he want? Unless maybe he came up to laugh in Angel's face.
"Hey," Angel said.
He winced when he realized how stupid that had sounded.
"Can I come in for a moment?" Baily asked.
If Baily only knew how many of Angel's wet dreams began with those words, he'd probably scream then run in the other direction. Fighting to keep a straight face, Angel gestured him in.
"Sure, it's a little messy."
"That's okay, you should see how my house gets sometimes," Baily said as he came in.
"Maybe you should look into getting a housekeeper or something."
Baily kept walking, moving closer to Angel. With each step he took, Angel's heart beat a bit faster as he wondered what kind of game Baily was playing. Panicked, Angel let go of the door and began to backtrack until he was flush with the wall. He realized that was a big mistake when Baily had him cornered. Their bodies so close together that Angel could feel the heat from Baily's body, and oh, was it ever so good. Angel only hoped that Baily didn't feel how much he liked it.