Dare Moon had wanted Steven Dell since the first day he saw the sexy wolf shifter. However, no matter how much he flirted Steven wouldn’t give him any of the hot smiles he shared with everyone else in the bar.
Steven had always wanted the perfect mate. Unfortunately all the wolves he took home didn’t measure up to tiger shifter who tended bar at his favorite hangout. Would Steven give up his dreams of a wolf mate and take what Dare was offering, or would he turn his back on his only true chance for happiness.
“So how long have you been in love with my best friend?”
Dare Moon dropped the bottle of alcohol he’d been twirling. Luckily, the expensive top shelf vodka landed on the anti-fatigue mat. The spongy rubber prevented it from shattering on the cement floor.
“What are you talking about?” he gasped, trying to still his pounding heart.
“I’m going to tell Silver to cut back your alcohol limit.” He refused to admit to any attraction. Especially when the man he was interested in showed no sign of returning his affection.
Anthony Carrow gave a graceful shrug as he sipped his fruity alcoholic drink.
“Silver’s not overly concerned about my alcohol limits. I don’t drink all that much.” He blinked his stunning amber eyes at Dare. “Now about Steven. If you’re not in love with him, why do you stare at him as if you want to pounce and take him down like a squeaky mouse?”
Sighing, Dare gazed across the room where the dark-haired wolf trolled for someone to take home—someone not him. “Nothing’s going on with Steven, and looking is as far as I’ll ever get. He’s made it clear he doesn’t want a tiger.”
Fuck if that didn’t break his heart. He couldn’t change the fact he was a weretiger, even if he wanted to, any more than he could help pining for the handsome werewolf.
Anthony looked unimpressed by Dare’s heartache. “As much as I love him, Steven’s an idiot. In the past three months, none of those pieces of ass he picked up touched a fraction of his heart. He’s only determined to have a wolf mate because his adopted parents are human and he wants to belong to a pack.”
Dare blinked back tears, dipping his head so the empathetic alpha mate wouldn’t notice. “I can’t give him a pack, weretigers only meet to mate.”
“Shit, Dare. I can give him a pack if he wants a pack. What he needs is a soul mate, and it’s my job, or so Silver keeps telling me, to watch out for the pack’s best interests. Well the pack’s best interest is for its fabulous bartender to be happy.”
Small bolts of lightning flashed in the beautiful blond’s eyes—a sign of a storm of the worst sort, an Anthony storm. Shit. It took a lot to upset the sweet-natured alpha mate, but he was an unstoppable force when crossed. Dare looked nervously at the wall of bottles. He hoped he wouldn’t have to explain to Silver what happened to them.
Before he could say anything else, Anthony slid off the bar stool and marched across the busy dance floor. With a talent that was mystically the alpha mate’s, he made a straight line to his friend while everyone moved out of his path in a smooth natural style as if they were never even there.
Standing on his tiptoes, Dare watched the smaller man approach his friend. He briefly got a glimpse of Anthony pulling something out of his pocket, but by then, it was too late.
Fury followed Anthony’s every step. How could Steven not see what was right in front of him? Every weekend, Steven came to the club and picked up a different wolf. Every Monday, he mourned to Anthony about how that wolf ‘wasn’t the one’ and yet here was this sweet-tempered man with sable hair and stunning green eyes Steven completely ignored. Well, no more, he was done with this.
“Steven,” Anthony shouted over the crowd.
The familiar dark-haired head turned toward him, away from the were-twink he was currently talking to. What Steven thought he’d have in common with a skinny submissive who was growing something on his chin that should’ve been allowed to die with dignity, Anthony didn’t know. The kid was at least ten years too young and thirty IQ points too stupid.
“What?” Steven asked.
“I’ve got something for you.”
Steven looked Anthony up and down, searching for his present. “What?”
Anthony slipped the envelope out of his pocket. With deft fingers, he popped open the flap and dumped the contents into his hand.
“This.” Taking a deep breath, Anthony blew the entire handful of green powder onto Steven’s blue silk top and brown leather pants.
“Shit.” Steven tried to brush the stuff off, but it clung like mad to the silk just like Anthony had planned when he recommended the shirt earlier. “What the fuck did you do?”
He glared at Anthony, his blue eyes bristling with ire.
“Enjoy your night.” Giving his friend a wide grin, Anthony turned on one booted heel and sauntered off, letting the crowds swallow him up.
Steven watched his best friend ditch him after ruining his outfit.
What the hell?
Members of the Moon Pack might be fooled into considering his best friend sweet, but Steven knew the ruthless manipulator that lived behind that innocent smile. If Anthony thought something was good for you, it was best to sit back and take it like a man or run like hell.
“Shit, man. What does the alpha mate have against you?” The twink looked at him with suspicious eyes as if Steven were marked for death and he didn’t want to get involved.
A loud roar snapped his attention to the bar. Dare, the cute bartender with pretty green eyes, looked ready to shift. Steven searched the area, wondering who could’ve upset the even-tempered man. He usually kept away from the sexy weretiger because he was incredibly attracted to the man and Steven wanted a wolf shifter. Still, something drew him to Dare like a piece of sticky gum to a new shoe. The connection between them was stronger than any he’d felt for the many men he bed each month.
Steven searched the room for whomever was giving the sexy man a hard time, ready to take the bastard out. He might not want Dare for himself, but he wasn’t going to let some asshole bother him.
Then the smell hit him. Catnip. That little bastard had doused him in catnip powder. He was coated in the stuff.
He barely had the time to curse before his back hit the floor as four hundred pounds of white Siberian tiger knocked him over. Luckily, the tiger splayed over him with only his front paws on Steven’s chest. Once he was down, a soft chuffing noise blew his hair away from his face.
Looking into those amazing green eyes, Steven realized the sweet bartender had given himself completely over to his beast.
Damn it to hell.
Anthony was so going to pay for this, but he’d have to be crafty so Silver didn’t rip him apart.
“Hello, Dare,” he said, keeping his tone calm and soothing, hoping he could reach the man hiding inside the big beast. “Remember me? Steven? We’re buddies.” Not a complete truth. He tried to avoid the cute kid because he was so fucking tempting. He wanted a wolf mate not a tiger, no matter how gorgeous, kind, and sexy.
He was so screwed.
A long tongue swiped up one side of his neck, leaving a streak of scraped skin behind.
“Ouch,” Steven complained. Despite his predicament, Steven didn’t feel a smidgen of fear.
He got another amused chuff for his comment.
“Dare, get off of Steven. There’s a good kitty. Remember, you like me. Eating me would be bad.” He hoped like hell the cat understood him. The feral tiger didn’t give him much hope. In the corner of his eye, he saw Ben approaching the white tiger with slow, careful movements. Sweat beaded his forehead as the young man continued walking toward them.
Dare growled and crouched over Steven, like an animal protecting its kill.
“Back off, Ben,” Steven hissed. “He’s not going to hurt me.” He knew deep in his bones the bartender wouldn’t harm a hair on his head. Two pairs of hands reached out and yanked Ben out of the way as Dillon and Thomas pulled their mate to safety. He knew the younger man would get a good scolding when he got back to his apartment. His mates took Ben’s security very seriously.
Confident the young were was protected, Steven turned his attention back to the tiger pinning him down. Another tongue lick bathed the other side of his neck, sending a shiver of pain through his body.
The tiger’s tongue hung out of his mouth in a dopey expression.
“Listen, pal. Anthony has a weird sense of humor. He didn’t mean anything by this,” Steven said.
The words floated into his mind, words not his.
“No. I want a wolf,” he protested. An objection that sounded weak even to his ears. At night, alone, he dreamed of the sexy weretiger, but he refused to admit it. He could still find a wolf despite what his instincts screamed about the weretiger.
“What do you mean tough?”
Steven was afraid he knew exactly what the weretiger meant. Dare had decided to keep Steven. He couldn’t do that. Could he?
Dare moved to the side and clamped his large mouth around Steven’s arm. With a gentle hold, at odds with his mouthful of sharp teeth, the tiger dragged him backward across the dance floor, toward the elevators. Their audience moved out of the way. Not one of them offered to help Steven out. Most of them looked amused.
The damn cat was taking him to his den, and no one was going to do a damn thing about it. He knew a lot of it was because they knew Anthony doused him in catnip, and no one was going to interfere with Silver’s mate without an engraved invitation from the alpha.
Digging in his heels, Steven tried to slow their trek across the floor. Unfortunately, at this angle, he was literally in no position to stop the large cat. He couldn’t get enough traction to slow their progress, and he didn’t want to do enough that the big cat thought he needed a better hold and actually sank his teeth further into Steven.
“Third floor?” Anthony’s voice, smooth and clear, floated above him as if they were discussing the weather.
“You fucker. You get me out of this,” Steven spluttered, looking up at his former best friend.
“Why would I want to do that?” Anthony asked.
Steven felt the bump against his back as they went from hallway to elevator. He watched Anthony push a button before stepping back out into the club and leaving him at the big cat’s mercy.
“Have a good night, you two.” His last view was of Anthony waving goodbye as the doors closed.
If there were a chance he would survive it, he’d beat the hell out of his best friend the first opportunity he got.
With a sigh, Steven relaxed beneath Dare. Anthony might be a little shit sometimes, but he wouldn’t leave his best friend in real danger.
“So what are you going to do with me now? Take me to your lair?” He got another painful lick for his teasing. “If you’re going to lick me, I’d prefer it in human form.”
Didn’t that thought make him harder than marble.
Another chuff had him looking up at the enormous beast. Damn, Dare was beautiful no matter what form he took. Months of frustration evaporated as he stroked the soft fur.
“If you let me up, I’ll follow you docile as a lamb.”
The cat cocked his head to one side as if he were considering Steven’s offer.
“Promise.” He blinked, trying to look innocent, but right then the elevator bell dinged and the doors opened. Large jaws gripped his right leather boot and dragged him down the hall.
“Shit. I just bought those boots.” Rug burn was going to be a bitch tomorrow.
The tiger stopped right outside apartment 341, dropping Steven’s foot. Dare reared up on his back paws and scratched at a panel by the door.
As soon as he was released, Steven stood up and was face to face with the huge animal. The tiger flattened his ears.
“I’m just standing, honest.” He wasn’t stupid enough to think he could outrun a big cat.
The panel popped open, revealing a computer screen. One giant paw pressed against the screen. A few flashes and the words reading appeared before there was a click and the apartment door opened.
“Clever. I could use something like that at my house.” All he had was an extra big dog door, but if he was going to be entertaining giant cats in the future, he’d make a few modifications.
Where did that thought come from?
Dare led the way inside. Steven followed, closing the door behind him. His nerves swirled through his stomach as if they were butterflies in a tornado-like frenzy.
Dare sat in the middle of the living room, looking at him with a tilted head like a dog seeking approval. Steven dutifully looked around and was surprised at the rich colors and tasteful collection of blown glass decorating the room.
The bartender had sophisticated tastes.
Now the question was how to get the man of his jerk-off dreams to shift back. Most werekin needed a trigger to shift from their animal form. The moon, a powerful emotion, or certain drugs all worked, depending on the person and what they desired. Catnip obviously served as a trigger for Dare to shift. Maybe the sight of him without clothes would do the reverse.
Watching the big animal for signs of distress or anger, Steven slowly unbuttoned his shirt, then slipped it off his shoulders and let it slide to the floor. The cat sat on his haunches, licking his chops. Hoping this meant he liked the show and not planning on how to eat him for dinner, Steven pulled off his boots and socks.
“Now I’m going to take the rest of my clothes off. Don’t bite anything, Steven ordered.”
He got another agreeing chuff, or maybe the beast was laughing at him. Deciding to focus on the man inside the cat, Steven made his movements as smooth and slinky as possible, hoping to entice the younger man back to his other form. He knew he had nothing like the bartender’s sexy kitty grace, but he wasn’t chopped liver either. Though if he had some, that might trigger a shift too.
Focused on sliding off his tight leather pants in the sexiest manner possible, Steven was startled when a callused finger slid up his arm.
“Fuck, you’re the sexiest thing ever,” Dare said, his voice rough from his change.
Steven barely finished removing his pants when warm hands gripped and yanked him against acres of hot naked bartender.
Steven’s mouth was taken in a kiss so carnal he went from nothing to full arousal in the blink of a tiger’s eye. Who knew cats were so fucking hot?
Coherent thought burned away from the passionate flames flaring high with the contact of skin against skin.
Memories of every encounter before melted beneath the searing heat of the weretiger’s touch. Never again would he consider the fast couplings of other wolves an acceptable substitution.
Steven knew that once he succumbed to Dare, things would never be the same.
He wrenched free. “Just a minute.”
Dare lunged. Steven tripped over his boots and went down.
A warm naked body slid on top of him, holding him to the plush carpet.
“Got you.” Dare’s eyes glowed bright green, telling Steven the other man wasn’t quite completely in charge of his cat, and he’d be damned if the thought of being prey didn’t make him hard enough to ache.
He reached up to stroke the werecat’s hair only to have his hands pinned beside his head on the carpet. For as many times as he’d imagined being in Dare’s arms, it was always with him being the aggressor. He was used to being the man in charge, the one who called all the shots.
Dare rubbed noses with him before sliding his cheek against Steven’s right cheek then his left in an affectionate cat gesture. The slight rasp of a five o’clock shadow sent shivers down Steven’s spine, everything in his body seized. His toes curled from the sensation. If he were a cat shifter, he would’ve purred.
“Fuck.” He almost came from that nuzzle alone. There was no way he was going to last much longer. “This first one’s going to be fast.”
“As long as it’s only the first.” The bartender’s voice, deep and rough, slid down Steven’s spine in an auditory caress. Dare flashed Steven a playful smile then gripped both of their cocks together in one large hand, tugging and rubbing until Steven forgot how to speak, how to form words and that there was even a language that didn’t completely consist of moans, whimpers, and satisfied sighs.
The room blurred before his eyes as he came so hard he poured out his soul into the tiger shifter’s hand. Dare soon followed with a shout of his own before collapsing on top of Steven.
Dare’s weight pressed him into the plush carpet, and for the first time, Steven didn’t mind the weight or the stickiness. Usually right after sex, Steven ushered his wolf partner to the door and called Anthony to gripe about the lack of emotional connection. Instead, he snuggled Dare closer, content to lie without breathing, because fuck, Dare was heavy.
“Shit, Steven,” Dare said, moving off of him. “I didn’t mean to crush you.”
“No worries, babe.” Steven slid his fingers through Dare’s amazing sable hair. It was soft and tumbled down to the base of the younger man’s neck. “Why isn’t your hair white?” His mind floated after the best orgasm in his life, fixating on little details. Most shifters reflected their coloring when they shifted. Orange tigers had auburn hair, it was curious to him that Dare didn’t have white.
The weretiger shrugged. “Just one of those odd magic things. Want a shower?”
Steven nodded. “I’d love one. Did you want me to head out afterward or do you want to get a bite to eat?”
Dare walked ahead of him, heading to where Steven assumed the bathroom was located. At Steven’s words, the weretiger’s head snapped around, and he found himself facing one pissed off cat shifter. He could tell his lover barely held onto his human form. The tiger’s eyes could light up the room with their glow.
“Go?” he growled.
Steven held up his hands in a placating gesture. “I was just checking. I didn’t want to impose.”
Dare rolled his shoulders, as if trying to shove the tiger back under his skin. His big body shook with the effort. After a few minutes, he was able to speak.
“Sorry, my tiger wants you to stay pretty bad. If you don’t mind spending the night, I’d appreciate it.”
“Of course. I’d be happy to.” He hoped he sounded more nonchalant than he felt.
Steven never stayed the night. He must’ve succeeded in sounding sincere because he could almost see the tension leave Dare.
They walked down a pretty green painted hall that reminded Steven of a lush forest and into the prettiest bathroom he’d ever seen. It wasn’t rich and masculine like the rest of the place. It was actually pretty. A pedestal sink in pale blue with an old claw foot tub with flowers painted on the sides dominated the room.
He saw Dare blush at his surprised stare. “It was like this when I moved in. I thought it was nice.”
“It is,” he assured his lover. “It is.” When Dare turned to start up the shower, he let his smile out. The kid was so sweet he could eat him up with a spoon.
His cock took interest in that idea.
“The water’s ready.” Dare pulled two towels from a beautifully carved wooden cabinet in the corner. He slipped into the bath, leaving the shower curtain open for Steven to join him.
Without hesitation, Steven followed that fine ass inside. “I guess I’ll have to thank Anthony, instead of kicking his butt,” he mused as he watched the handsome man get mouth-wateringly wet.
Dare laughed. “You couldn’t kick Anthony anyway and still make it out of the bar alive.”
Steven laughed. “True. I slapped Anthony on the back one day and Silver almost ripped off my arm.”
A low growl came from Dare, his eyes glowing again. “He better not harm you.”
“Shhh. No, babe. I’m fine.” He ran soothing circles around Dare’s shoulders, cradling him close so he could reach his back. The two men were near to the same height, making it easy for Steven to cuddle Dare close and give him gentle kisses. “Easy, babe. I’m good.”
Is this what Anthony had to deal with on a daily basis? For a moment, Steven had a smidgen of sympathy for his friend.
Dare shook his head. “Shit, I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m so touchy today.
Maybe that catnip hasn’t completely worn off. Usually, it just makes me a little loopy. Having it on you has made me into a possessive jerk.”
Even as he said those words, he snuggled closer. The pair of them stood in the heated stream of water as if trying to wash away their worries.
Steven pushed aside his own concerns to reassure the trembling bartender. “Come on, babe, let’s finish washing and go back to bed.” He was a little worried at how comfortable those words sounded, like they’d been long-time lovers. Shaking his head, he gave into the inevitable. The beautiful weretiger was his, and he would have to learn to adapt.
This time, it was affection and not passion that had them rinsing each other off. With smiles and gentle touches, they dried and headed toward the bedroom.
Dare woke up warm, sated, and wrapped in the arms of his dream man. Sighing, he nuzzled in closer, wishing for the first time he was the kind of cat that could purr.
“Morning, kitty.” A large warm hand stroked his head, causing an involuntary sigh to pour from Dare’s mouth.
“Morning, wolf man.” He tilted his mouth for his morning kiss.
“I have morning breath,” Steven warned.
“Two morning breaths cancel each other out.” Dare latched onto Steven’s lips like a drowning man grabbing a life preserver. If this was the only encounter they were ever going to have, he needed to take advantage of it. He didn’t bother hoping the wolf saw this as a step toward their future. If the man hadn’t wanted him before, he wasn’t going to change his mind now. However, Dare planned to enjoy their time together now, even if it was short.
Two hard pricks rubbed together, leaking copiously.
“Oh, like that, babe.” Steven’s hands gripped Dare’s ass, pulling him tighter against him. “Oh, yeah. Just like that.”
It didn’t take long before one cry followed another as the two men gave over to passion in each other’s arms.
“Mmm.” Dare licked a path up Steven’s neck before worrying a mark into his skin, a mark that would show high above any collar.
“Marking me, baby?” Steven asked, his eyes sparkling with amusement.
Dare jerked back. “Oh god. I didn’t mean to.” Well, consciously.
Subconsciously, he was apparently all about marking the man lying beside him. Scent, bites, anything to leave a sign the sexy wolf was taken.
Steven laughed. “That’s all right. I’m not ashamed of having sex with you.”
Dare averted his head as he blinked back the sudden watering of his eyes. “I’d better brush my teeth and get dressed. I have to get to work.” He stumbled out of bed and headed for the bathroom door. He didn’t want the man in his bed to know that while Dare was making love Steven was having another bout of meaningless sex.
“Did I do something wrong?” Steven called out.
Dare shook his head, not slowing his stride. “I-I just need to go.”
“You work nights,” he heard Steven sliding out of bed to follow.
He resisted the temptation to look. “Not the rest of this week. I’m working with Dillon and Parker to look for those mutant werewolves.”
“What do you mean you’re working with those two? You’re a bartender, not an investigator,” Steven growled.
Dare finally turned around, glaring at the intense blue-eyed man before him. “I’m also a four hundred pound tiger. I’m good in a fight. If they find those other wolves, I can keep them safe.”
“And who’s going to keep you safe?” Steven asked.
Dare rolled his eyes. “I’ll be fine.”
Walking away from Steven before he said anything he’d regret, he headed for the bathroom.
Steven watched the fine ass of his lover walk away from him, Dare’s back was straight and his shoulders stiff with anger.
It didn’t look like he could say anything right today. First, something he’d said had hurt Dare’s feelings; now, the cat was angry with him for being concerned. He could feel Dare’s emotions as if they were his own, and the entire experience unsettled him.
Damn, who knew werecats were so high maintenance?
Steven entered the bathroom cautiously, uncertain of his reception. Dare was standing at the sink brushing his teeth, his beautiful body tantalizing in the morning light. Well, this was something they could agree on.
They both wanted the other’s touch.
Steven moved behind Dare and wrapped his arms around the stiff figure. “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings, baby. I just don’t like the thought of you going against bad guys. Hell, last time Anthony got shot, and he’s damn near indestructible.”
“I’m sorry you don’t think I can protect myself,” Dare said, his tone unbending.
“No. No, babe.” He stroked Dare’s chest until the younger man melted against him like the boneless kitty he was. Steven cradled Dare close. “I just don’t want you to get hurt. Why don’t I come along and help? I’m a trained investigator.” Steven had a computer investigation business where he researched information on people for companies and individuals alike.
Dare shook his head. “Silver wanted to keep this to pack only.”
Steven jerked away like he’d been struck. “You’re not pack,” he pointed out.
“I might not be a wolf, but I’m a member of the pack. Anthony declared me pack last full moon.”
Jealousy bit deep. Anthony, who didn’t have any wolf heritage, and Dare, who was a fucking tiger, could belong to the wolf pack, but Steven was left out in the cold.
“I’m sorry I’m not good enough to join your little club.”
Dare’s eyes widened. “I didn’t mean it like that! You just have to petition.
I’m sure Silver would take you if he knew you were interested, but it’s been a while and you haven’t said anything, so I guess we all assumed you didn’t want to belong to the Moon pack. You’re Anthony’s friend and a shifter, I’m sure he would make you pack if you asked.”
Steven bit his lip. He hadn’t talked to Silver about joining because he kept hoping he would mate into the pack like Dillon and Ben. He’d even tried dating wolves in other packs, but he kept coming back to this one. It wasn’t just that his oldest friend helped run it. He felt a pull to the Moon pack. Now he wondered if he’d just been fooling himself, and it wasn’t the pack, but Dare, that was the pull. Could a wolf really mate with a tiger permanently?
The pair finished their shower in thoughtful silence.
Dare loaned Steven some clothes. Steven didn’t say anything to the younger man, but he got a secret pleasure from wearing Dare’s clothes. He knew any wolf near him would smell the tiger’s scent covering him from shirt to socks. He felt giddy inside, like an adolescent girl with her boyfriend’s letterman jacket.
He shared none of that with the weretiger as he followed Dare out of the apartment and into the elevator.
“It looks different on my feet,” he teased enjoying the flush that colored Dare’s cheeks.
“Sorry about that.”
Steven shrugged. “I’ll talk to Anthony. That little stunt was his fault.”
Dare smiled. “Yeah, but I liked how it ended so don’t be too hard on him.”
Leaning over to place a kiss on those lush lips, Steven had to agree. “I’ll take it easy on the little shit because I really enjoyed last night.” He gave the cat another kiss before breaking apart when the elevator doors opened.
In the early afternoon, the bar was mostly empty.
Dare turned to Steven. “I’ll catch up with you later. I told Dillon and Parker I would meet them at Parker’s house.”
Steven growled. “You’re not going alone to meet an unmated were at his house.”
“What’s your problem?” The confusion on Dare’s face told him the tiger shifter had no idea Steven was making a claim. Parker was one of the few werekin who had a house of his own instead of staying with the pack. He’d inherited the house from his mother and refused to part with it or live with the others.
Rumor had it he got special dispensation from Silver and had to take extra training to prove he could protect himself.
There was no way in hell Steven was going to let his mate go into that bachelor den alone.
Staggering under the weight of his new knowledge, Steven stabbed a finger in the direction of an empty table. “Wait for me there.” He got a pissed off expression from his kitty, but Dare did what he asked.
Good. It would help their relationship for Dare to realize who was in charge at the beginning.
Without another look, he headed for Silver’s office. Knocking, he waited for the bid to enter before he opened the door.
Silver’s large office contained an enormous desk, a small conference table, and lots of seating for impromptu meetings with staff and pack members.
When Silver looked up, he received a half smile. The happiest expression the alpha ever gave outside the sphere of Anthony.
“Anthony’s at his office downtown,” Silver pointed out.
“I didn’t come to see Anthony. I came to see you,” Steven said.
“Oh.” Silver shrugged. “If it’s about the catnip incident, I already talked to Anthony about that.”
Steven laughed. “And I’m sure he was properly repentant and begged forgiveness on his knees.”
A blush covered the cheeks of the tough alpha. “He did something on his knees that made me forget my name, but I did try to scold him.”
Shaking his head, Steven let the alpha off the hook. “That’s okay. It doesn’t do any good to lecture Anthony; I know from past experience. Besides, he did me a good turn.”
“You and Dare?” Silver’s raised eyebrows caused a wave of trepidation in Steven’s chest.
“What? You don’t think we’ll make good mates?”
“Shit. You just cost me a diamond ring. I told Anthony there’s no way you’d go for a cat.” Silver sighed in mock disappointment. The twinkle in his silver eyes gave him away.
Steven shook his head sadly. “You should know better than to bet against Anthony.”
A sheepish smile crossed the alpha’s face. “Yeah, but this was one bet I was hoping to lose. Sometimes he wears turtlenecks where no one can see his collar. I need to have him wear something even a standard human can understand. Marking him with my scent doesn’t do any good if humans can’t smell it.”
Steven had to hold onto the desk as he laughed so hard tears filled his eyes.
“Poor you. Mating with a beautiful man is such hard work.”
“You know it. It’s not easy staying one step ahead of my man, but he’s worth every bit. Want to see his ring?” Silver’s eyes lit up with anticipation like a kid wanting to show off the present he got for Christmas.
It was sweet how the large man doted on Anthony. In that ‘too much sugar your teeth will rot’ kind of way.
“Sure,” he said. After all, if he wanted to get on the alpha’s good side, he didn’t want to piss him off at this juncture. If it took admiring his best friend’s new bauble, it would be well worth it.
Silver pulled a desk drawer open and handed over a black leather ring box. Opening the jewelry box, Steven caught his breath. He wasn’t a man given to jewelry, but he knew his friend would adore this. Inside the box lay a heavy gold man’s ring with a giant square amber stone with two rows of pavé diamonds circling the band. Steven bet if the ring was held up to Anthony’s face, it would exactly match his friend’s eyes.
“I’ve never seen a yellow diamond before,” Steven said.
Silver smiled. “They’re very rare, just like Anthony.”
Would puking ruin his chances? Who knew the huge alpha had a big squishy inside? He wisely refrained from commenting. “It’s beautiful. I’m sure he’ll love it.” Really, he just couldn’t resist. “You know you could just pee a circle around him. The werekin will know that you’re marking him and the humans will be disgusted enough to leave him alone.”
Laughing, Silver shook his head. “Somehow I don’t think Anthony would appreciate the sentiment.”
Steven smiled at the image of Anthony that sprang into his mind. It was best Silver didn’t follow his advice because he didn’t want to think about what his best friend would do in retaliation.
Silver frowned at the ring a moment before sliding it back inside his desk. “He’d better like it. I had to contract with weremoles to get a rate I didn’t have to sell the building for.”
“You know Anthony would love you even if you didn’t give him a ring.”
Steven didn’t want Silver to fall into the same trap many men did when trying to keep a beautiful lover. As much as Anthony loved gifts, he wouldn’t care if his lover couldn’t afford them. Steven was confident his friend loved Silver with or without the trinkets.
“I know,” Silver sighed. “But I want his parents to know I can take care of him. That father of his didn’t seem convinced we were fated to be mates. At least the ring will let everyone know my man is loved and appreciated and to back the hell off.” The alpha gave a self-conscious shrug. “Enough about me. What did you come here for?”
Steven took a deep breath. “I’d like to join the pack.”
Shrewd eyes examined him. “Why now? You’ve never shown interest in the pack before. Unless there’s more to the story I heard about a big cat dragging you out of the bar last night.”
“Dare is my mate.” Steven rushed the words out like a run-on sentence. A ball of fear lodged in his throat as he admitted the truth out loud. It was almost painful giving up on the dream of a wolf mate, but he wouldn’t give up his weretiger for anyone.
“Are you sure? If he was really your mate, I would’ve thought you’d know earlier,” Silver regarded Steven with his piercing eyes.
Steven blushed with shame. “I kind of did. I just wanted him to be a wolf.”
“Ah. Well, I can’t say I don’t understand. My life would be a lot easier if Anthony was a wolf, less interesting but easier. Does Dare know you avoided him all this time because he’s a tiger? Has he agreed to be your mate?”
“He’ll agree,” Steven said, a low growl rolling across his words. “He had better agree, but that’s not why I came here. I want to help you find the mutant pack.”
Silver stood up. “I’ll give you temporary membership to assist the others. We can use all the help we can get. However, until Dare accepts you fully, I can’t admit you as a full pack member unless you want to enter as an unaffiliated wolf.”
“What’s that?” His werewolf lore wasn’t the best, and he was still finding gaps in his knowledge when dealing with werewolves who grew up in a pack.
“It would mean you joined without any affiliation except the bonds of friendship. Your connection with Anthony is enough to have you join as a lone wolf,” Silver explained.
Steven shook his head. “I’ll wait until Dare accepts me. If I join as lone, he might think that means I don’t want him, and I already did enough damage.”
“Then welcome as a temporary member.” Silver held out his hand.
Steven accepted the alpha’s handshake and tilted his head to acknowledge his pack submission.
“You’re going to have to do that for Anthony also, you know,” Silver teased.
Steven let go of his new alpha’s hand. “Shit.”
Turning, he stomped out the door.
Dare was sitting where he left him, sipping a cola out of a clear glass. A few members of the club sat with him, chattering about something or other; Steven didn’t pay attention. What he did notice was they were all sitting too fucking close to his man.
“Come on, babe. I’ll take you to Parker’s.”
Dare gave the other men a nod, and after dropping his glass off at the bar, let Steven lead him outside.