“ You…but you’re….you’re…”
My mind draws a blank as I try to take in all I see. Words cannot describe it, and my heart sinks into my toes.
“But you’re my mate,” I say, as if that was everything that needed to be said. I see what is happening in front of me, but I cannot bear to put it into words.
My mate—the one person I should love for the rest of my life—fucking another shifter. I watch in horror, unable to move, but she only smiles playfully back at me.
“Perhaps you’d like to join,” she says, winking. “I’ve always wanted to have two men filling me up until I’m limp with bliss.”
My head shakes and I take a step back. She pouts prettily. It’s the most evil thing I’ve ever seen.
“You’re fucking another man when you’re supposed to be mine!”
There. I said it. It’s out of my mouth now, but even as I speak, she only rides his cock harder, as if the words turn her on.
“Oh, fuck! Yes!” Her eyes roll back in their sockets and the shock I feel turns to rage. Rage at a female that until yesterday, was just another possible mate for me, though I had hoped to be paired with someone a little more stable, more caring. Of all the females to be mated to, it would have to be Carla Moore. I had saved my virginity for my mate and now she was there, riding some strange wolf’s dick like it was the end of the world and it was now or never.
“Of course, I’m fucking another man,” she says as her breath came out in heavy pants. “Did you think that I would wait for my mate in order to receive such pleasures? So old-fashioned, West. All of you Harkins are. Step out of the Dark Ages and into the 21st century, you fool. No one but limp-dick losers wait for their mates anymore.”
Shaking my head again, I stop in place. This can’t be happening to me.
No. No. No.
“You…you can’t—this is… This is wrong, Carla.”
“Fuck, you’re such a whiner, West. You’re completely harshing my sex buzz, ya know?”
She stands, the man beneath her groaning at the loss of contact. His wet dick slaps the hard ridges of his abs. A dick that should’ve been mine instead of his.
Carla pats him on one stiff shoulder before sauntering over to me naked, her pussy glistening.
“Listen, West. I don’t think it’s going to work out with you and me. You’re too…well, you’re just too stiff. If you loosened up a little you might be alright, but as pack Beta and being besties with that old stuffed shirt, Paul, there’s not much hope for you and I, is there?”
I’m at a loss for words. They won’t come not matter how hard I try to push them out.
Unreal. This is unreal.
“West Harkin, I Carla Moore re—”
“West! Yo, West!”
My nightmare was shattered by the most welcome and unwelcome voice I could imagine. It was that of my best friend, Paul Weiss, the newly appointed alpha of Destiny Pack in northern California.
“Fuck off, Paul, I’m sleeping.”
I threw an object, possibly a pillow, in the direction of his voice.
“Nice shot, but you went wide left. Better to stick to your day job, bro.”
It was apparent I wasn’t going to be getting any more sleep, so I sat up, blinking at the bright light streaming in through my windows. Most days I slept like a log and if it wasn’t for Paul nearly yelling himself hoarse every morning, I’d sleep until noon every day of the damned week.
It hadn’t always been like that, but ever since I had found my mate just after my 18th birthday, I found the times when I was awake to be less than thrilling, and never something to look forward to. Usually, the respite of sleep made me forget my mate woes, but every once in a while I had a nightmare—the nightmare—and found being awake the lesser of the two evils.
It had been five years, five long years and some change since I had been rejected and left without a mate. They said everyone deserves a second chance, but I would never be able to find it in my heart to forgive the cheating bitch, even after all these years and even if she had wanted to accept me. I don’t know why she did it—I never did—but there had been a time I had blamed myself. I thought that there had to have been some fault of mine that pushed her away, but in the end, I think it came down to power. She wanted it, and I didn’t have enough of it to satisfy her.
Before Paul had met Cassidy, his mate, Carla had tried to get him to mark her, though she knew he was my best friend and I was Beta to his Alpha. When Cassidy was marked, Carla quickly slinked back into the slimy hole from whence she came.
You would think that she’d then try to come for me, but she never did—not that I had wished her to.
Well….maybe, but only because I would have loved to reject her back and see the look of hurt on her face. They said that one needed closure, and I had always thought it would have been a perfect way to rid her from my mind for good.
Five years of wondering what I was going to do without a mate. Someone of my position was never meant to be without one, but it seemed that whatever God or higher being there was out there hadn’t gotten that memo.
“Blow me,” I gritted out, even as I stood.
Stretching in place, I looked around my room and thought how empty it looked. It held no appeal. It was a resting place only, and held very little that I held near and dear to my heart. It definitely needed a woman’s touch.
In fact, the whole house seemed empty, so I spent as little time as I could there, usually sticking to the lodge that was always bustling with distracting activities and where drama lay around every corner. I figured as long as it wasn’t my zoo to keep, I couldn’t get hurt again.
“No thanks, bro,” Paul said cheerfully. “I doubt Cass would approve, even if we were like super close or whatever.”
He hopped up onto the desk in my corner, looking like a fucking kid as his long legs swung back and forth and watching as I grabbed a towel, my bathrobe, and a few other essentials I’d need for my shower and the special patrol I had been given just the day before. Mysterious scents had been spotted near the borders, and I was to take a group of men to scout out the scents and report back to Paul when the mission was complete.
“Let me take a shower quick,” I said, forgetting that I’d probably come back looking like a stick dipped in shit anyway. The south side of the territory was undoubtedly muddy, what with the wide river that bordered our vast land in that direction. Shoes. Shirt. Skin. All were likely to be covered with wet soil by the time my ass was back at home, though I honestly didn’t mind it in the least. It would just be another diversion to get me through another day without thinking about being alone.
I thought about that a lot. Most females were dead-set on waiting to meet their mate, and the land was usually so peaceful that women didn’t lose their mates easily. It was a rough terrain, this far north in the Sierras; one would have to be incredibly stupid or undeniably brave to try to get past the foothills and rocky crags that surrounded Destiny Pack.
We occasionally got strays that came onto the land, but they were usually so worn out by the time they reached us, they were too far gone. Some fell off cliffs and limped or crawled their way here, and some had run from hunters or rogues and had to be driven off the land by the only road that led to us after being patched up and fortified by food and water. Like I said, it didn’t happen often, but when it did, it was always one big fat clusterfuck of a time.
After all, there was a reason that we were a powerful clan of shifters. No one dared go after us as most wouldn’t get past the rough terrain, and no one was stupid enough to drive down the road in plain sight.
“You might want to rethink showering now,” Paul said just as I dropped my towel onto the bed. “You’ll be up to your eyeballs in dirt and mud before you know it. Why waste the water?”
“Saving the earth again, Paul?” I asked, chuckling without any humor.
“You know me.” He grinned. “I always share my showers with Cass so that we don’t use up more of our precious resources than we need to.”
“Yeah. I’m sure that’s the only reason you shower together,” I said with a hint of bitterness fouling my tone. “I’m sure it’s not what’s under her clothing that gets your dick pointing up to your chin and has you racing to the bathroom any time she goes to bathe.”
His smile only widened further.
“Can you blame me? I have a beautiful woman, inside and out. And my dick plans on seeing a fuck-ton of her insides whenever it can.”
Paul Weiss was one testosterone-charged motherfucker. All those with Alpha blood were. If only I’d had Alpha blood in me…
I shook my head, warding the thought away. I didn’t regret now that she had rejected me. I hadn’t wanted her in the first place, and it was a curse that I had been given to such a willful, vain, cock sucking little—
“The head warrior wants to head out within the half hour,” Paul said, breaking into my thoughts. He had a knack for doing that when he thought my mind was going off the rails. He wasn’t my best friend for nothing. “He’s afraid with all the recent rain it’ll be more difficult to traverse the rockier portions of the land. Hiking boots, my brother. Wear ’em.”
“Thanks, Dad,” I mumbled before starting to strip out of my t-shirt. By the time it was up and over my head, Paul was gone from my room.
We were close, but not strip show close.
And that fucker was as silent as Casper The Friendly Ghost’s farts when he left a room. If I hadn’t still smelt him in there, I would’ve thought he had been a figment of my imagination.
I lifted my noise in the slight breeze. We had started at the north end of the territory and wound our way down to the south before heading east by way of the Manzanita River. We walked against the flow of the river, hoping to catch wind of any of the scents that had been reported to us by earlier patrols. So far, I had caught only the odors of the natural wildlife, though that wasn’t a surprise. The rain that had come the night before had probably washed the scents away and we were just chasing our tails.
In some ways, literally.
Every once in a while when we thought we caught an errant scent, we would shift into our animal forms and give the area a good sniff before shifting and moving on. It was utterly exhausting and I was already wishing I was back home, in bed, and preferably having a late afternoon snooze. Some people called it depression. I called it getting to know my unconscious mind a little better.
There were cries in the distance, just to the east. I could hear the noise of the water winding its way around another rocky outcropping, the distance making the sounds bounce off the far side of the river where it was a sheer cliff of crumbling shale.
“What’s going on up there?” I called. Although the head warrior was in charge of most patrols, this time he would defer to me.
“Rogue!” someone called ahead. “Dead or dying.”
“Leave it!” I said. “Or put it out of its misery already.”
My guess was that the poor creature had probably been driven from his pack and fell over the cliff. It wouldn’t have been the first time.
I guess that the patrol the night before hadn’t been wrong like I originally had thought.
I heard more mumbling, then arguing. Walking up to see what the fuss was about, I got to the top of a boulder that was peeking out from the ground to see a couple of the other warriors standing over a small body that was lying still on the muddy banks of the river.
“I said to kill it or leave it be,” I told them loudly, walking over to them. “Its heartbeat is faint and—”
“I don’t think she’s rogue,” the head warrior said as he looked up from the body. “And I don’t think she’s going to live much longer unless we get her some help.”