Wes has been on his own since he was sixteen, and he’s had to do what he needed to do to survive, even if it meant being a prostitute. He’s never known love, but that starts to change when he meets Taylor. Wes feels wanted as a person for the first time, but he knows Taylor could never accept him, so he flees.
Taylor hadn’t expected to wake up alone on the day after he claimed his mate. He doesn’t even know Wes’ full name or phone number, so he has no way to find him. Just when he thinks he’s lost Wes forever, Wes is attacked and calls a pride member for help. Taylor knows he has to tell Wes about his furry half, but after Wes ran once already, Taylor is scared of his mate’s reaction.
Wes accepts staying with the pride, but can Taylor really accept him and his past? And can Wes get used to living with people—with shifters—when he’s been alone for three years?
Wes left the bed and disappeared in the bathroom. He turned the water on but kept an ear on what was going in the bedroom. He’d already taken the money and had brought it with him into the bathroom, so the guy couldn’t steal it, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t try to take something else.
Not that anything Wes owned was worth it. He’d learned not to buy anything expensive the hard way when one of his clients had left taking Wes’ small TV with him. Ever since then, Wes has kept his bedroom as empty as possible, and took everything that cost more than twenty dollars into the bathroom with him when he went to shower.
He stayed under the weak spray of water until it ran cold. It didn’t take as long as Wes would’ve liked, and he was shivering by the time he dried himself with his rough towel. He hooked it around his hips and went back to the bedroom, relieved to see it was empty. He checked the small living room and the even smaller kitchen, just to be sure he really was alone, then he locked the front door.
He shivered and went back to the bedroom. He dressed with the clothes he reserved for the clubs and pulled a blanket over his shoulders, then he began cleaning up the bedroom. He changed the sheets and threw away the used condom his client had left on the floor.
Wes unearthed his cheap cell phone from the inside of the hamper in the bathroom and checked the time. It was still early, but he had nothing else to do at home. Besides, the club would be warmer than his apartment, so he might as well go.
He folded the blanket and put it back on the cheap bed, then he went back to the bathroom. He styled his hair and ignored the rest of his reflection. He washed his hands, stocked his pockets with condoms and small single-use packets of lube, and brushed his teeth.
Wes bit his lower lip and checked his reflection one last time, entirely this time.
He looked good. He always did. He had to look attractive, and to be fun, and lively, and all that crap. Even when he didn’t feel like it he had to, or he wouldn’t find clients.
He straightened from his slouch and took his coat from the bed. He shrugged it on, grabbed his wallet, and got out the door. He locked it and the three different padlocks he’d added, then strode to the stairs.
He had to climb over a man sleeping on the floor of the second story, and he tried to ignore the urine smell emanating from the guy and the empty bottle of booze he was still clutching. He hurried outside and only then took a deep breath. He needed to get the smell of unwashed bodies, cheap alcohol and mold out of his nose, but it was becoming harder and harder to do it. Again, not that he had a choice.
Wes couldn’t afford anything better than the cold, smelly apartment he lived in. He knew he was lucky he could actually afford it, even if some days it meant he might not eat.
The night air was freezing, and Wes tried to huddle even more into his coat. It didn’t seem to help, so he walked swiftly to the club. It was a good twenty minutes on foot, but at least he’d be marginally warmer when he got there. He stuck his hands in his pockets and looked straight ahead, ignoring what was happening around him while staying vigilant.
Wes got out of his neighborhood after ten or so minutes of walking and finally let himself relax. He was approaching the center of Whitedell now, and there were people walking around, normal people. People who had a family, a nice house, and a good job. All things Wes didn’t have.
He shook his head and pushed those thoughts away. It wouldn’t do to think about it, especially not now. Maybe when he went back home he could hide under the covers and commiserate to himself, but not now.
Wes was so deep in his thoughts that he didn’t see the man until he bumped against him.
He looked up, and up, and his eyes widened. The guy had to be six foot five at least, and he was a mountain of muscles. He looked like he could bench press Wes without problems and Wes gulped.
He started to back off, but the guy surprisingly smiled at him. Wes felt his eyes go round.
“It’s fine. Not like you did it on purpose, but I’d look ahead instead of down, if I were you.”
“Uh, yeah. I will.”
“Jonah! Are you coming or not?” a new voice yelled from behind Wes.
Another man passed by him before he could walk away. The guy threw himself at Jonah and hung from his arm, and between the two of them, they occupied the entire sidewalk.
Wes walked off it and skirted by them. He peeked their way and saw the smallest guy kissing Jonah on the cheek. They looked so happy, so carefree, and it hurt. Wes dreamed of having that, of having someone who cared for him. But who would want a whore like him?
Wes’ gaze locked with the smallest guy’s and he gasped. He looked away and tried to leave, but a hand on his shoulder stopped him. “Don’t I know you?”
Wes shook his head and kept his eyes down, but the guy wasn’t easily dissuaded. “I do. Where did I see you? Let me think...”
Wes tried to move away. He gave Jonah a pleading glance and the big guy stepped forward. He took the smallest guy’s hand and twined their fingers together. “Leave him alone, Keenan. Even if you do know him, does it really matter? I don’t think you two were ever close friends, since you can’t remember him.”
Keenan opened his mouth to answer, but instead he looked at Wes again. “You’re the guy from the club!”
Fuck. How could he remember that? It had been almost a year ago. Wes shook his head, but Keenan insisted. “Yeah, I remember you.”
Wes remembered him, too. He’d been hitting on Joshua. He’d looked like a decent guy, and Wes had been all for it. He hadn’t even had the time to suggest they go somewhere more private before Keenan had interrupted them. Wes had thought Keenan and Joshua were a couple, but either they hadn’t been, or he’d gotten himself a new boyfriend in the past year.
Not that it mattered. Wes had never talked to Joshua again, but he still had his phone number. It was almost like a lifeline for him, something he could look at when he was desperate. He liked knowing that if something happened, he’d have a way out, at least if Joshua answered, and if he hadn’t changed his phone number. It might not lead to anything, but it was there, and it was more than anything else Wes had.
“Keenan, let the guy go. You don’t even know him, and I’m sure he has somewhere more interesting to go on a Saturday night,” Jonah insisted.
Wes gave him a grateful glance and hurried away. He could hear Keenan talking behind his back, but he didn’t stick around to hear what the man was saying about him. Bad enough that Wes had hit on his maybe boyfriend back then and that he still had the guy’s phone number.
He was relieved when he finally arrived at the club. He took his coat off, handed it to the girl at the entrance, and paid the small fee. He smoothed his hands down his chest and straightened his shirt, took a deep breath and lifted his chin, and went in.