Vincent Dobs Marché thought he scented his beloved—his fated one-and-only—at a shifter enforcer challenge months ago. Since rogue shifters killed his mother, bonding with one is the last thing he wants to do. He runs from the knowledge, vowing to live his life alone. Fate has other plans. Slowly, blood from human donors becomes unpalatable to him, until it’s easier to go hungry than deal with the taste. When he hits the verge of collapse, his friends step in, forcing him to return to Stone Ridge and give the shifter a chance.
When Dobs meets his beloved, Franklin Drunger for the first time, the big, sexy, wolf shifter’s blood calls to him. Frankie seems just fine with the idea of Dobs drinking from him, so he gives in to his desire and bites the man. Reb, Frankie’s protective older brother, isn’t nearly as open-minded and attacks Dobs. Acting on instinct, Frankie defends his mate, shifting to wolf form. Dobs panics at the sight of the wolf and insults his beloved. Angry and hurt, Frankie flees.
Can Dobs learn to accept the gift Fate has given him and convince Frankie to give him another chance? Or is it too late for him to earn the love of the special shifter he’s been given?
“You can’t keep going on like this. What was so wrong with that one?”
Dobs growled at Sebastian in warning, flashing his fangs. “I’m not hungry,” he snapped.
Sebastian—Seb to his friends, rolled his eyes. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. You haven’t eaten in three days,” he pointed out. “And that was from a glass. Tell me what the hell is up with you.”
He bristled at the command in Seb’s tone. Dobs didn’t like being ordered around by anyone, but didn’t have the strength to take on Seb. And wasn’t that a kick in the balls? At normal strength, he wouldn’t have had any trouble giving as good as he got from his friend. Now, it was an effort even to care.
And all because of a shifter.
Dobs heaved himself from the couch, barely hiding the wash of lightheadedness that swamped him. Snarling, pissed at how weak he felt, Dobs headed toward the bar. If he made a Bloody Mary and mixed real blood into it, he could get it down. It would suck, and not in the way he liked, but it could be done.
He went about fixing his drink. It was an effort to hide the tremble of his hands. Gods, he was thirsty. The memory of the rich aroma of his beloved’s blood, his one-and-only, teased him, similar to what he imagined a ghost memory from a lost limb would feel like to an amputee. His mouth watered.
Bowing his head, Dobs had to take several deep breaths to clear his senses. The man Fate deemed his beloved wasn’t here. He wasn’t. There were no shifters in his home. That was what he’d wanted several months ago when he’d realized what his beloved was. He’d thought if he hadn’t bonded with the shifter, he could move on, resign himself to the fact that he’d never be paired with anyone.
Unfortunately, Fate could be a bitch. Gradually, Dobs’ enjoyment of other’s blood diminished. Now, he couldn’t stand even the thought of drinking blood from a source that wasn’t his fated match. The smell of the donor Seb had brought to him had turned his stomach, making him sick.
Dobs swigged back the Bloody Mary. At least he could still manage to drink blood already removed from a body. He’d taken to breaking into blood banks and stealing what he needed. It was degrading, and humiliating, but Dobs didn’t want to give up on life just yet.
He wondered if this would pass if he stayed away from the wolf shifter long enough.
The slam of his office door caught his attention and he watched Lex stride into the living room. Dobs stifled a groan. Damn, his friends were double-teaming him now. Fantastic.
“Who is he?” Lex snarled, stalking toward him.
Okay, Dobs hadn’t expected that. He lifted a brow, keeping his face impassive. “What are you talking about?”
“You’re rejecting donors, drinking from a glass, and wasting away,” Lex stated, ticking off the points as he spoke. “You’ve met your beloved. Who is he and where is he? I’m going to get him.”
Oh, hell no! Dobs curled his lip and snarled, showing off a fang.
Lex wasn’t impressed. He strode over and smacked the back of Dob’s head…hard. “You bloody idiot. You’d rather die than accept your fated chosen one? Why? What could be so bad that you’d choose this slow torturous death?”
“I’m fine,” Dobs lied. “It’ll get better soon.” He so needed to believe that.
“You’ve met your beloved? Where? When?” Seb cut in, moving closer.
Dobs ignored Seb’s questions. Instead, he swallowed several more gulps of his drink. He could feel the blood, however diluted, begin to course through his system, steadying his hands and easing the cramping in his stomach. It wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy, but it was a start.
“It’s not going to get better, Dobs,” Lex declared, glaring. “It’s going to get worse.”
He didn’t want to believe him.
Lex grabbed his shoulders and forced him to turn and look at him. Dobs didn’t have the strength to resist. Pressing close, pinning him to the wall, Lex asked gruffly, “Who. Is. He?”
Dobs struggled for only a couple seconds before his newly acquired strength gave out. He couldn’t fight his friend. Dropping his head against the wall, Dobs admitted defeat. “He’s a wolf shifter in Stone Ridge,” he admitted.
“What’s his name?” Seb asked from behind Lex.
Looking over Lex’s shoulder at him, Dobs shook his head.
Lex growled. “Tell me his name.”
“I don’t know,” Dobs whispered.
Lex frowned and eased away. “How can you not know?” he asked incredulously.
“I scented him at an enforcer challenge they held. A dozen of shifters were there,” Dobs explained. “I don’t know which one it was.”
“By the gods,” Seb hissed. “That was nearly eight months ago.”
“No wonder you’re nearly dead on your feet,” Lex snapped. “You stupid, prejudiced jackass.”
Dobs didn’t bother to argue. He knew it was true.