Levi is a badger shifter, an alpha’s son, and a carrier. The fact that he can get pregnant is a secret, and his family risks a lot by keeping it. He needs to find a husband and get married as soon as he can if he doesn’t want the council to take him and make that decision for him. He agrees to meet Dimitri Marson, the son of the bear alpha. Dimitri is the best candidate for Levi’s cete, but when Levi meets him, he realizes he’s not for him.
Dimitri doesn’t understand why Levi pushes him away. They might not be in love, but they both know getting married is what’s best for the sleuth and the cete, and for Levi. Besides, Dimitri is handsome and rich, something anyone would want. Right?
When his mother points out how much of an idiot he’s been, Dimitri tries to make amends. Levi gives him a second chance, but their union might end before it even starts. Someone is trying to kill Dimitri, and they’re not stopping for anything.
Will Dimitri manage to save himself? And if he does, will Levi really give him another chance to show him they really can work well together?
“I talked to the alpha of the badger cete,” Dimitri’s father said.
Dimitri nodded even though he wasn’t sure what his father had talked to the other alpha about. There was a reason his father was telling him that, and Dimitri would find out soon enough.
Dimitri’s father leaned forward and linked his hands over the top of his desk. “We agreed that having you marry his son would be beneficial to both the cete and the sleuth.”
Dimitri frowned. The badgers had one of the biggest territories in the Allegheny forest. Being able to add it to the sleuth’s territory would mean that only the bobcats and the foxes would have an amount of land that could rival with the sleuth’s, but badgers? “I thought you were talking to the fox alpha about a union with his daughter?”
Dimitri’s father wrinkled his nose. “I was, but he decided she was too young.”
That much was true. The girl was only eighteen, and while it wouldn’t be unheard of for her to marry a man ten years her senior, Dimitri understood why her father wanted her to wait. Still, badgers? “What about the bobcats?”
“Their children are either married or too young.” He arched a brow. “Do you have something against badgers?”
“They’re badgers. They’re small and cute, but they’re weak.”
Dimitri’s father laughed, and Dimitri didn’t understand why. He knew his father wanted to make the sleuth stronger, but the badgers didn’t seem like the best shifters to do that. If it had been Dimitri’s decision, he would have picked the bobcats or even the coyotes.
“You think badgers are weak?”
“Strength can’t be measured in size, Dimitri. You should know that by now. Badgers might be small, but they’re aggressive and mean. They never back down when it comes to picking a fight.”
“Doesn’t mean they win them,” Dimitri muttered.
He’d agree to meet the badger alpha and his son if that was what his father wanted, but he wasn’t sure it was the best way to go. It had nothing to do with the fact that he’d never thought about marrying a man. He still thought badgers were weak, and the fact that the cete was all but gone was evidence of that. Only a few dozens of members remained, which was why the cete needed to rely on one of the other shifter group that lived in the Allegheny forest.
“Levi is a carrier.”
Dimitri snapped his head up. The fact that he wouldn’t be able to have heirs had been the next argument in line against marrying the man his father had chosen for him, but Levi being a carrier changed things. “A carrier? Why didn’t I know that? Is he registered? He’s older than twenty-five, right?” That was the age limit for single carriers to register with the council.
“Do you know much about Levi?”
Dimitri tried to remember. As his father’s heir, he made sure to stay up to date with the other groups’ alphas and their family. He knew Levi was the middle son so he wouldn’t inherit the cete, but he hadn’t known he was a carrier. Not that it changed much in his opinion, but since he wasn’t the only one involved, it didn’t hold as much weight as it should. “Not much.”
Dimitri’s father nodded. “I’d like for you to meet him. His father won’t force him into a union he doesn’t want, but we both think it would be a good thing if the two of you decided to take that step. Alpha Steele has managed to keep his son’s carrier status a secret until now, but you know as well as I do that it can’t last forever.”
“You know what I think about the carrier thing, Father.”
“It’s a bunch of crap. Why should children born to men be stronger than those born to women? Mom’s the strongest person I know, including you.”
Dimitri’s father raised his hand. He looked amused, which told Dimitri he wasn’t offended by his remark. “I know, Dimitri. You know I agree with that, but most of the other shifters in the forest don’t. Having you marrying Levi would bring prestige to the family and the sleuth, especially if you have children. And if you’re not going to pick him, then someone else will, and the prestige and power will go to them. I’m not saying you have to marry him if you absolutely hate him, but I’d like you to give him a chance. If it doesn’t work, we can wait until the fox alpha’s daughter gets older. You’re only twenty-eight, so you still have a few years.”
Dimitri did, but his first duty was to obey his father. They both wanted the same thing—for the sleuth to be healthy, happy, and powerful. Their territory was relatively small, so being able to run in cete’s territory would be a plus. Levi wouldn’t become the cete’s alpha, but he would be the alpha’s brother, and the sleuth and the cete would be united and would support each other in the council.
What Dimitri thought about badger shifters or carriers didn’t matter. What marrying Levi would bring to the sleuth did, and Dimitri’s father was right. The sleuth needed the territory and the power and influence that came with it.
Dimitri nodded. “I’ll meet Levi.”
His father leaned back in his chair. “But you’re not promising to marry him.”
“I would, but you said his father won’t force him to do it if he doesn’t want to.”
“I won’t force you either, Dimitri.”
“I know.” But Dimitri knew what his duty was. As long as Levi agreed, they would get married.