Sometimes werewolves are the good guys.
Kaden has always dreamt of cooking. His family scoffs at his wish to help out the war effort and think he’s wasting himself by joining a pack.
Gage is the Alpha of his pack and loves his mate Russ with everything he has. But, although the beta wolf loves him back, Gage isn’t Russ’ mate. In a quirk of nature, their bond is one-sided, and while Gage holds as tightly as he can, he can feel his lover slipping away.
Russ loves his Alpha, but a piece of him always longs for what could be. He doesn’t want to hurt his lover—but how much better would life be if he could have a mate of his own?
Three men with different goals discover the difference between love and mating, and how sometimes, what you want may not necessarily be what you need.
Kaden arrived at the pack kitchen first thing in the morning, eager to start his day. If images of the alpha had followed him into his dreams, he wasn’t going to let his mind relive those encounters. He didn’t want others to smell the scent of lust pouring from him while he scrubbed the dishes—they might get the impression he got an odd thrill over dish soap.
Not given to self-deception, Kaden had to acknowledge the alpha’s appeal. And if Russ tried to hit on Kaden again, he was going to punch the guy in the nose. How dare he try to cheat on the gorgeous alpha? Anyone with eyes could see that Gage adored the creep.
Although… When he remembered Russ licking clean his wound, Kaden could allow that maybe he wasn’t too bad. At any rate, Kaden vowed to make the alpha the best breakfast ever if Denel would allow him to.
He set to work making the muffins that his grandmother had sworn contained little bits of heaven in each bite. Kaden suspected it was really the sugar-coated blueberries that added that extra bit of flavour, but he never argued with Nana.
In the end, it turned out Denel had fallen behind schedule, so he gave Kaden the task of taking breakfast to the alpha’s meeting. Kaden smiled when Denel let him include his muffins on the cart.
“It never hurts to give them more than they can eat,” Denel said. Kaden recognised the voice of experience when he heard it and quickly nodded his agreement with the manager.
Using equal parts of patience and muscle, Kaden manhandled the food cart over a treacherous path filled with rocks, puddles and mud. A few times he worried that the entire thing would topple over, but eventually he made it. Smiling, he stopped at the entrance to the alpha’s tent and nodded to the guards.
“I have food for the meeting,” Kaden said with a tentative smile.
The guard on the right leered at him. “Aren’t you too pretty to be serving food, or is there something else you’re offering on the side?”
Kaden scowled at him. “I’m only serving breakfast.” As a gamma he should’ve bowed and offered himself to the other man. Most gammas were addicted to pleasing others. Unfortunately for the guard, Kaden didn’t fall into the category of the usual gamma. If the man had taken one more step forward Kaden he’d have shown him the results of the self-defence lessons his father had forced him to take.
The wolf licked his lips. “That’s a shame. You be sure to let me know if you change your mind.”
“I’ll be sure to put my foot up your ass if you ever touch him,” Russ growled as he appeared in the tent’s opening. Kaden watched in shock as the prime beta grabbed the flirting wolf and all but threw him across the yard. As the soldier hit the hard earth with a disturbing cracking noise, the beta wolf gave Kaden a dazzling smile. “Come on in. That smells wonderful.”
Russ held the tent flap open for Kaden, who swore he heard the other man sniff him as he entered. Surely he’d imagined it. Maybe Russ hadn’t eaten earlier and liked the smell of the food? After a quick glance around, Kaden’s gaze settled on the alpha. Gage sat at a table with four other men—their assembled guards standing in a semi-circle behind them. Kaden knew the guards would grab something to eat when they were off duty, but he still had a twinge of guilt for feeding only half of the hungry men in the tent.
Oddly enough, seeing Alpha Gage settled his nerves. Despite his dreams of the night before, there was something soothing about the man. Kaden had to fight the urge to slide down to the floor and sit at his feet. To keep his mind off that tempting image, he pulled out trays of eggs and slabs of ham and the large carafe of coffee to be arranged buffet-style then placed a basket of his muffins in the middle of the table with butter and jam.
“Did you make these, young Kaden?” Alpha Gage asked.
“Yes, sir.” Kaden swallowed trying to get moisture in his dry throat. When the alpha smiled at him, prickles of need spiked up his spine and he had to think unsexy thoughts to keep his cock in control.
“They’re very good,” Russ broke into Kaden’s thoughts with the comment. Apparently, while he’d been staring moon-eyed at Alpha Gage, everyone else had tasted his muffins. For a minute he contemplated kissing the man his thanks, but he realised in time that the alpha probably wouldn’t appreciate his behaviour.
“Thank you.” He quickly retrieved more plates for the group. Denel had told him how many to expect. However, when one of the soldiers pinched his ass and made him drop a fork, the offender was quickly pinned to the support post by Russ wrapping a hand around his throat.
“Did you see his arm band?” Russ asked in a deceptively gentle voice.
The soldier couldn’t speak or even move his head to agree or disagree. That didn’t matter as the beta answered the question for him. “It is green, which means he’s kitchen staff. He’s not your personal sex toy or plaything. He’s to be respected for doing his job. Do you understand?” Russ snarled and banged the man’s head against the wooden post with each word. Kaden looked nervously at the tent walls, hoping they wouldn’t collapse on them.
“I don’t think he’s going to understand if you bash his head in,” Kaden said dryly. He cast an imploring look at Gage, who merely raised an amused eyebrow at him.
Kaden dared to give him a scowl before grabbing Russ’ arm. “Let him go, please.”
Russ dropped the man like a sack of potatoes. “Apologise,” he snarled.
“I’m sorry, Prime Beta.” The offender shook beneath Russ’ scowl.
“Not to me, you idiot—to him,” Russ growled, pointing to Kaden.
The soldier took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, gamma, for assaulting you.”
Kaden looked at Russ to see him watching him closely. “Um. Okay.”
He heard Gage laugh and Kaden glared again at the alpha, who only looked back in amusement. Shaking his head at the pair, Kaden laid out the rest of the meal and quickly beat his retreat.
“I expect you to come and pick up the trays in one hour,” Gage demanded before he left.
“Yes, sir,” Kaden said. His traitorous mind pondered all the things he would like to be doing with the sexy alpha an hour from then.
Gage watched as the little gamma pushed out his cart before Gage helped himself to the meal he’d prepared. He’d also been ready to beat the crap out of Matt for touching the kitchen boy. No one should have to put up with being mauled while trying to do their job.
It was a struggle for Gage to cast the sweet man in the role of seducer when he practically ran for the hills when Russ got too close. In fact, the only time Kaden appeared calm was when he looked at Gage. He had to admit he was surprised that Kaden could meet his eyes when most betas couldn’t even glance at his face…much less the gammas.
Russ still let out the occasional growl when Matt wandered too close.
“Shit! I said I was sorry, Russ. You don’t have to keep beating me up over it. I won’t touch the kitchen staff again…although I don’t know why. That man is fine.”
Gage shook his head as Russ grabbed Matt by his neck and slammed his head into the tent pole again before tossing the unconscious beta to the floor.
“Subtle!” Gage said.
“He doesn’t understand subtle,” Russ growled.
They finished the meeting while polishing off the delicious food. Gage really enjoyed the gamma’s muffins. He knew the others lingered just to have another bite or two from the breadbasket.
“I like that new boy. He makes great food. I heard he made that soup last night,” Carlos, one of the pack betas, declared as he breathed in the aroma of the warm muffin.
Russ nodded like a proud poppa. “He did. He’s really talented.”
Gage felt a corresponding level of pride. What was wrong with him? How come he didn’t want to rip out the gamma’s throat? Instead, he wanted to let the young wolf curl up by his feet. One of his biggest fears abated somewhat. At least if he had to share Russ, he could tolerate their third. The young gamma would never try to battle either man for dominance. Kaden was the type to know his place and be content in it…
An explosion rocked the camp.
They raced outside. Gage’s heart slammed against his chest when he saw the kitchen building on fire. Enormous flames shot from the roof. Gage would bet money the kitchen stove’s gas tank had exploded.
“No!” Russ screamed. Shifting into his wolf form, he raced towards the blazing building.