Anthony Carrow never thinks to find the love of his life when he goes to a bar with his best friend Steven Dell. Getting over the death of his lover has been a hard task for Anthony. After two years he’s still broken-hearted and doesn’t have any intention of joining the dating scene. However, going with Steven to scope out a werewolf club to help his friend find a mate leads to unexpected consequences.
Silver, alpha leader of the Moon pack, has been searching for his mate for a long time. Unhappy with the men he meets he’s given up searching for the man of his dreams until Anthony walks into the bar.
Can a man who’s already suffered a loss once be persuaded to give love a second try or will fear hold them back from finding the love they both deserve.
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” Anthony Carrow muttered to his friend, Steven Dell, as he glanced around the club. After two seconds, he seriously considered walking back out. If it hadn’t taken Steven weeks to get a membership to the shifter-owned club, Anthony would’ve left after the first few minutes. However, he wasn’t going to ruin Steven’s first visit.
No matter how much he wanted to.
He’d dressed how Steven had requested but that didn’t diminish the fact that he felt like an idiot. He wore his leather pants without a shirt, exposing both his pierced left nipple and the brilliant memorial tattoo on his back. It made him feel more naked than he was used to in public. It took him a moment to realize less people were looking at him than at the young man walking past him with a leash attached to the harness around his cock; a leash clasped in the firm grip of a slim man with silvery hair, wearing a designer suit and walking with the smooth grace of a werekin.
In reality, with his magical disguise, he drew less attention than the dozens of men standing around like they were waiting to take part in a Mr Beautiful pageant.
He remembered the days when he used to bar hop, until he’d been taken off the market by the love of his life. Pain jabbed at him as he remembered why he could now visit these kinds of places again.
This is all a horrible mistake. The thought whipped through Anthony’s mind in a dizzying fury, setting his nerves strumming so loudly he was surprised the noise didn’t echo off the ceiling of the crowded bar.
Panicked, he turned to flee.
A strong grip clamped onto his shoulder, holding him in place.
“No escaping. You promised you’d come with me, and we both know you need to get out more,” said Steven, Anthony’s best friend. He watched the provocative pair with the cock leash pass with interested eyes.
“I know but I don’t think I’m ready,” Anthony stuttered. How could he convey the utter terror he had of falling for someone else just to lose them again? Drew had been Anthony’s sun, moon and shining star. To stand there in a sea of attractive people for the sole purpose of finding someone again struck Anthony as wrong on so many levels he could barely function beneath the weight of them.
“You’ve barely dated since Drew died.” Steven flashed Anthony a sympathetic smile. “You know he’d want you to move on, and although I appreciate your new look, I don’t think you did it for me.”
Anthony stifled his laughter at Steven’s rueful expression. Even though he had agreed to accompany his friend to the club, he’d cast a strong suppression spell on his appearance so he wouldn’t stand out in the crowd. Anthony didn’t need a stampede in his direction on his first night out. Easing into the dating scene gently was the only way he could even think about dating again. Even now, it felt more like dropping straight into the ocean rather than a gentle wade to get his feet wet.
Looking at the club’s clientele, Anthony had doubts he was going to find a nice, quiet man to dominate him. He missed his Drew, the strong man who’d been his lover until a heart attack killed him at the age of fifty. Anthony was brokenhearted at the death of his lover, especially knowing that if he’d been home at the time, he might have been able to save him.
Magic did nothing if you weren’t there in time to use it. Instead, he got home to find his lover dead on their living room floor. An event in his life he knew would stay with him for hundreds of years. Despite what they said about ‘time heals all wounds’, he knew some injuries to the soul never healed. They might scab over a bit but underneath the pain would always be tender.
The spell he’d cast before coming to the club had dulled his gleaming golden hair to a dirty blond and subdued his naturally glowing skin to a light bronze. Features normally heart-stoppingly fine roughened beneath the weight of magic, changing his typically beautiful features into a pleasing but not memorable face. Everything else he left as nature made it, figuring there would be a lot of muscular bodies in the crowd so he wouldn’t stand out. Due to his spells, he was now attractive enough to get a man but not gorgeous enough to overshadow his handsome friend.
However, as much as he wanted to find another person to share his life with, the mere thought of dating sent pain ripping through Anthony’s chest. Shifters as a group were fit, and as his eyes roamed over the dance floor filled with hot flesh and eager partners, all he could think of was that none of them were Drew. Images of his dead lover flashed before his eyes like a moving picture, peeling back his careful indifference to expose a loss so deep it threatened to drown him. Taking a deep breath, Anthony steadied his pulse and forced a reassuring smile to his lips, hoping to stave off the worried expression he saw in Steven’s eyes.
Surely three years was long enough. He could do this.He was ready.Maybe if he chanted it a few more times in his head it would become true.
“You aren’t asking me to go out more. You dragged me here because you want moral support for your mate hunt. Why you even want a mate is beyond me.”
He didn’t even want to imagine what would happen if Steven found and lost his mate. Werewolves bonded for life, something that could be good or bad depending on your mate. If Steven died because his mate did, Anthony would never forgive him. Bastard.
“You have something against wolves?” Steven’s challenging tone caught his attention from the crowd. His friend’s eyes glowed feral in the club lights.
Anthony felt an uncomfortable number of people turn toward him with disapproving expressions. Great, just what he wanted; to insult a room full of werekin. A low growl sounded near them. Anthony’s temper flared, but he firmly held it in check. Steven would never forgive him if he crumbled the building and ruined Steven’s mate hunting grounds.
He felt the surrounding people lose interest in his conversation with Steven once they decided he wasn’t a threat. Nothing would be worse than a human hunter sneaking onto shifter property. Anthony had heard of that happening in other cities, and the resulting carnage wasn’t good. The amount of damage the hunters did was nothing compared to the wolves’ retaliation. Towns had lost whole populations in shifter/human wars.
“Don’t be an idiot. We’ve been friends forever. If I had a problem with wolves you’d know it by now. I have something against mates,” Anthony snapped.
“Oh don’t start that.” Steven’s voice wasn’t unkind, but the underlying firmness in his tone told Anthony his best friend was running out of patience. “Just because your lover died doesn’t mean you can’t find another. Besides, if you don’t start dating again, your parents will intervene, and I’ve met your parents. They scare the crap out of me.”
Anthony shivered at the memory of his parents’ matchmaking skills. “Last time they fixed me up with a fairy.”
Steven snorted. “I thought you didn’t like labels.”
“No. He was an actual fairy, you know, from Faeland,” Anthony corrected.
That got Steven’s full attention. “What happened?”
Anthony shrugged. “Let’s just say it didn’t work out.” He wasn’t going to relive the horrible details of that blind date, even for his best friend. Fae princes were a touchy lot. The one he had dated became a bit obsessed, and Anthony’s father had to put a magical sanction on him. “Anyway, it just proved I wasn’t ready to date.”
“Fuck it, Anthony, it’s been almost three years. Even if you don’t want a mate, there are plenty of hot guys here for a hookup. You can’t be celibate for the rest of your life. Hell, even if I don’t find the ‘one’, it’ll still be fun shopping.” His hungry gaze briefly scanned the crowd before turning to lock eyes with Anthony, his blue eyes filling with compassion. “If you didn’t think it was possible to find someone else, you wouldn’t have come.”
Anthony looked away, blinking rapidly. “I know. I do. It’s just hard.”
Sighing, he looked around the bar. It was an extremely selective club; they didn’t let just anyone join. He knew Steven went through a detailed screening process to get a membership and have Anthony put on the approved guest list. He was only one of a handful of friends who were on it. No one got in without a background screening; a wise move on the club owner’s part. It would be all too easy for a hunter to persuade a naïve shifter he was their friend only to go on a killing spree once he got inside.
Everywhere Anthony looked there were men and women dancing, drinking, and doing things not usually allowed in public. There were certain advantages to belonging to a private club, and as long as no money exchanged hands between partners, just about anything was allowed between consenting adults.
Tonight, it was Steven who was on the hunt to find his one and only.
Adopted as a baby, Steven’s parents were full human and knew nothing about the complex world of werewolf society. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but there were only so many facts you could find on the internet. Werekin didn’t give up secrets to people not of their kind or their mates. Steven’s parents were sweet and tried hard, but they weren’t werewolves. Steven’s entry into the club would be his first submersion into werewolf culture.
Anthony tried to be supportive of his friend’s search for a mate, but it was hard. Part of his soul died with Drew, and he doubted he’d ever be able to reclaim it. He worried that Steven’s hopes of hearts and flowers would end in tragedy like his own love affair. It wasn’t better to have loved and lost; it was fucking unfair.
Still, Steven was right; he couldn’t stay alone for the rest of his life, and werewolves were known for taking charge in the bedroom. There was nothing he loved more than a firm hand.
With that thought in the forefront of his mind, Anthony looked the room over with new eyes. Instead of trying to keep hidden, he assessed the others to see if any would appeal to either him or to his not-so-discerning friend.
As if catching onto Anthony’s thoughts, Steven shared a wicked smile, and the pair prowled the room with new intent.