Benjamin Sallen entered the club with wide eyes and a hopeful heart. It was a toss-up what was more fascinating: the flashing lights, the flow of dancing bodies writhing half naked across the floor, or the scantily clad waiters sashaying around with trays of food. After filling out innumerable forms to validate his werekin status, he was finally allowed through the club doors.
His enhanced werewolf senses absorbed the smells of sweat, lust, and sex. Never had he gotten so hard so fast, but the pheromones filling the room would make anyone want to have sex. Ben had come to find a mate, but at that moment, he would take hot, sweaty sex with a total stranger if it would take the edge off. As it was, his dick was trying to burst through the zipper of his favorite jeans. He wondered if this was the type of club that had a room in the back for the convenience of its members.
Ben jumped back as a wereleopard slammed his partner against the wall and started dry humping him. Maybe they didn’t need a private area. Shaking his head, he walked across the dance floor, toward the bar. His throat was dry, and he didn’t have to work tomorrow. His job as an independent CPA let him set his own hours and prevented him from having to answer embarrassing questions about why he couldn’t work on days close to a full moon.
After months of settling into his new environment and living without a pack, he yearned for the touch of another werekin. Even the brief brush of flesh from the shifters on the dance floor helped soothe the lonely animal beneath his skin. Despite leaving his Alaskan pack only six months ago, he was desperate for the company of others like him. Hunting under a full moon wasn’t the same without a pack—it lacked the joyous lust, and the prey he could catch was more of the rabbit variety than full-grown deer.
Purchasing the club membership was his chance at a new life. If he met and mated with a local werekin, he could gain acceptance into the pack. Even if he hooked up with another lone wolf, at least they could become a pack of two. In werekin culture, anything was better than one. Lone creatures didn’t survive long in the big bad world, especially small wolves. At five feet nine inches, Ben was on the short side for a wolf shifter. He blamed that on his human mother. If he were full-blooded, he would easily have topped six feet. At least he could shift. He’d heard of half-blooded werekin who were unable to shift but still felt the call of the moon. Ben decided they must be in a special type of hell, one he was lucky enough not to be a part of.
Using his smaller size to slip through the crowds, Ben made his way to the long wooden bar covering most of the back wall. The bartender moved with fluidity that screamed cat shifter.
“What can I get you?” The bartender batted his long sable lashes over a pair of piercing sea green eyes. “Besides me.”
Ben chuckled. “A rum and Coke, please.”
“Oooh, a polite one.” The bartender’s hands moved so fast the motion blurred. In seconds, he was presenting Ben’s drink with a flourish and a flirty wink. “Anything else?”
After giving the cute shifter a tip in the glass jar beside him, Ben flashed a grin of his own. “Not right now, but I’ll let you know if that changes.”
It wouldn’t. He was looking for one of his own kind. In his wilder days, the bartender would’ve been a prime hookup, but he was looking for something more permanent. Ben wanted a mate. He wouldn’t get it where he came from. At the Great Claiming, none of the werekin had stepped forward to choose him. Maybe if Dillon had been home, things would’ve been different.
An image of a tall, dark werewolf with forest green eyes flashed in his mind. Ben ruthlessly pushed it away along with his feelings of longing. It had hurt to leave the pack knowing he’d never see the handsome man again, but Dillon was part of his past and tonight was about securing his future.
“Hello there, cute stuff,” a rough voice spoke from behind him. He turned to see a huge man with cold black eyes looking him over like Ben was a prime piece of meat he wanted to devour.
“Um. Hi.” He gave a polite smile and shifted a bit to the side to look around the other man. A sniff proved the guy was werekin, but not one with any mate potential. He didn’t give off the right scent.
To Ben’s shock, the man settled a heavy arm around him. “What do you say you and I get to know each other better? I’m Ned, what’s your name?” It was more a statement than a question, as the other man was already lifting him off his barstool and guiding him toward the exit.
“B-Ben.” Panic rabbited in his chest. Great, his first time in the club and already he was in trouble. Why did things like this always happen to him? All he wanted to do was meet the werewolf of his dreams and settle down, not be kidnapped by a Neanderthal.
A deep voice broke into Ben’s panic. “There you are, honey. Ned, thank you for finding him for me.”
“Thomas.” Ned’s arm fell off his shoulders so quickly Ben lost his balance, causing him to stumble into the speaker. Firm arms wrapped around him, surrounding him in a comforting embrace. He had the oddest sensation of coming home.
“Hello, honey.” Ben’s quick glance up gave him an impression of laughing hazel eyes and a wide white smile before warm lips descended and kissed him to within an inch of his life. Heat burned through his body. Whimpering, he moved closer to the other man, rubbing his erection against the newcomer. The man called Thomas felt long, hard, and perfect against him. The smell of wet dew on a grassy meadow filled his senses. He fought back the urge to howl at the rightness of his scent.
The stranger pulled back. Ben snarled, his gums burning as his teeth elongated in preparation to bite. His wolf wanted to mark the other man so everyone could see. How dare he pull away? The man was his! He battled his instincts to take the larger man down like a lame deer. To bite him, fuck him, and make sure everyone knew he was claimed. Startled by the violence of his thoughts, Ben stepped back.
“I guess he is yours,” Ned said behind him. “You better keep an eye on him before some mate hunter steals him away.” The words trailed off as Ned walked back into the crowd, quickly swallowed by the waves of dancing people.
Trying to subdue his oddly aggressive wolf, Ben gave his head a little shake. As one of the least alpha members of the pack, he was surprised at this sudden compulsion to claim the other man. Hope burst through him as he wondered if maybe he’d found what he was looking for after all.
A small part of him protested that this man wasn’t Dillon. Ben ruthlessly suppressed it and turned his attention on the tall, dark man who looked like a model from a glossy magazine. The kind you had to read with one hand.
* * * *
Thomas looked down at the pretty red-haired wolf and almost came right then. Gold eyes, an aquiline nose, and lips so lush they would make a straight man dream of fucking males. He’d seen prettier men; his alpha had the most beautiful man on the planet for his partner, but he’d never met one so compelling.
The word whispered across his mind, a message from his inner wolf. Everything fell into place, the smell, the looks, and the incredible kiss. There was no doubt in his mind that the little wolf beside him belonged with Thomas.
“My name’s Benjamin, but everyone calls me Ben,” the pretty man said, holding out his hand.
“Thomas Moon.” He waited for the younger man to claim his affiliation. In werekin culture, your last name indicated the pack you belonged to. When Benjamin didn’t answer, he decided subtlety was wasted on his mate. “Where’s your pack?”
A chill came into Ben’s gold eyes. The smaller werewolf backed away until there was an uncomfortable foot of space between them. Thomas resisted the urge to grab Ben and drag him back into his arms where he belonged.
“I left my pack. I have lone wolf status.”
Fear trickled up Thomas’s spine like a winter chill. Lone wolves were dangerous. Most of them went solo because there was something wrong with their psyche that prevented them from traveling in a pack. Other times, it was because the pack found something wrong with the werewolf and banished him. There was rarely a good reason a wolf chose to travel alone. Looking around, Thomas realized they couldn’t address something this important in a crowded club. They needed privacy.
“Come with me.”
A wary look came into Ben’s eyes. Smart man. “Why?”
“I just want to talk. I’ll even leave the door unlocked, so you can go whenever you want to,” he promised. He didn’t want to scare the man off, but he really wanted to talk to him in a quieter area.
After a long moment, his mate nodded. “All right.”
* * * *
Ben followed the handsome werewolf up a small flight of stairs. It was odd to see a pack in an urban environment. Growing up in the wilds of Alaska didn’t prepare him for the strangeness of city wolves. The man walking before him looked cosmopolitan and suave, like a werewolf version of James Bond. Watching Thomas’s fine ass flex as they climbed the stairs sent sparks of desire dancing up his spine.
“Stop watching my ass.”
“Nope,” Ben replied. “I’m enjoying the view too much. If you didn’t want me staring, you shouldn’t be so gorgeous.”
Surprised at his own daring, Ben smiled when Thomas flashed him a startled look over his shoulder before continuing upstairs.
A beautiful man in a jewel-encrusted collar waylaid them at the top of the steps.
“Thomas, you must tell Silver I don’t need guards to watch my every step. I practically trip over them. Please, please intervene,” the stunning creature dramatically clasped Thomas’s hands while he pled.
“No, Anthony, you need guards.”
He felt bad for the beauty when Anthony’s face took on a look of such disappointment. He felt his own heart clench in sympathy. Those sad eyes looked away and latched onto Ben.
“You found your mate.” With a dizzying flash of mood change, the blond gave Thomas a tight hug. A growl built in Ben’s throat but was quickly suppressed when Anthony released Thomas and hugged him instead.
Skinny arms wrapped around him like a cozy blanket as a feeling of intense well-being oozed through his body like a narcotic. The man smelled like a living forest, moist soil, green fields, and old oak trees. Anthony smelled like home, even though home was more cold, snow-covered woods than toasty warm forests. Ben dipped his head in the beauty’s neck and breathed. Stress he didn’t know he was holding left his body in a rush, leaving him calm and almost dizzy with relief.
A low, dangerous growl broke through his calm.
“I’d suggest you let go of my mate before I rip off your arms and beat you with them.” The voice was so deep and cold he could almost feel the homicidal rage hidden beneath the words.
The blond wiggled out of his arms. “Relax, snookums. I was just greeting Thomas’s mate.”
Watching the sweet, beautiful man walk up to the psychotic almost twice his size made Ben’s fingers twitch with the urge to yank Anthony to safety. The threatening man’s sleeveless shirt exposed a set of mile-wide shoulders and arms bulging with tight muscles. His gray eyes were the color of an Alaskan winter sky and just as warm. Ben’s protective instincts rose up until he saw the man turn and give the sleek blond a look of total adoration. It was like watching an iceberg melt before his eyes. One massive arm wrapped around Anthony, cradling him close in an obviously tender hold.
Anthony smiled. Standing on his tiptoes, he placed a soft kiss on one granite hard cheek.
“I’ll pay you back for the snookums comment,” the giant said.
The blond looked completely unperturbed. He blithely patted his lover on one bulging bicep while batting his beautiful eyes artfully. “I’ll look forward to it.”
Ben watched the whole thing, fascinated. The power pouring off the male was alpha strong, but it was obvious who was in charge of that relationship.
One large hand reached out to him, he tentatively took it. “I’m Silver, the alpha of the Moon pack. Thomas is my right-hand man.”
“I’m Ben.” A quirk of the alpha’s brow had him confessing. “I’m a lone wolf.”
Silver stiffened. “Why?”
“We were planning to go talk about his status when your mate stopped us to plead for fewer bodyguards and to grope our bodies.” Thomas reached over and grabbed Ben’s hand to drag him down the hall.
Ben was chilled his mate would throw Anthony literally to the wolves. He dug in his heels, bracing himself to jump in. The alpha might kill him, but he felt oddly protective of the pretty man who smelled like a forest. Instead of growling, Silver threw back his head and laughed.
“You two go ahead and have your discussion while I explain to my headstrong mate why he needs so many guards.” The alpha growled at the slim blond who barely came to his shoulder.
“You-you’re not going to hurt him, are you?” Ben couldn’t help it. He feared for the smaller man’s safety next to his huge mate. The alpha didn’t appear angry, but Ben had enough experience with alphas to know their tempers changed with the wind.
Anthony gave him a big smile. “You’re very sweet, but Silver would never hurt me. Welcome to the pack.”
Silver growled. “You’re not allowed to welcome people to my pack. I’m the alpha. I get to welcome or not.”
Wow, this looked like a real fight. The welcoming expression left the blond as the shimmering gold eyes turned solid before turning back to his mate. He could’ve sworn he saw lightning flash in them before Anthony turned, but he figured it was a trick of the hall lighting.
“Shit,” Thomas whispered behind him. Ben was slowly pulled away from the bickering pair. He could tell the other man was trying to remove him from the line of fire.
“Oh it’s your pack, is it? I guess I’m just a pet accessory. I foolishly thought we were partners in this relationship. You just let me know what your decision is then, big man, and I’ll decide whether you’re welcome in my bed.” With a frightening calmness rivaling the rage of his mate seconds before, Anthony slammed the door to the apartment he’d recently left.
“Fuck.” The alpha glared at Thomas. “He better fucking be your mate because there’s no way I can go tell mine that I didn’t approve him.” Leveling an icy glare at the pair, Silver followed in the smaller man’s wake into the apartment.
“Well, that was enlightening,” Thomas said with a wide smile at Ben. “Looks like Anthony can sense mates.”
“Why does he smell so good?” Ben didn’t want to give the wrong impression, but damn. “Don’t take this wrong. I mean you smell great, but he smells amazing. Not mate amazing, but amazing.”
Thomas nodded and gave him a knowing grin. “Anthony’s mother is a forest witch. I still haven’t found out what his father is. Just a word of warning, smell him at a distance. That’s what we all do.”
Ben nodded. “Distance, got it.” He was positive he didn’t want to be on the bad side of the alpha even if he didn’t end up joining the pack.
* * * *
Thomas walked down the hall to his suite in silence. With Anthony’s approval, he knew his mate would be accepted into the pack. There was normally a meeting to determine if a new mate would fit in with the pack hierarchy or if they would need to join the other wolf’s pack. Sometimes it was a matter of whether a new personality fit into the group dynamic. He had a feeling Anthony would short-track the entire process. After all, Silver didn’t want estrangement from his beautiful man, and his mate was more than a little strong-willed. The alpha mate might not be a wolf, but he was powerful in his own right.
Feeling better about the relationship by the second, Thomas led the cute redhead to his door.
“Each of us has a suite. The higher in the hierarchy we are, the better the accommodations, but no one has bad rooms. Some prefer to live in their own places outside the pack house, but we encourage as many as possible to live here. It’s harder to protect everyone if they’re scattered around town.”
Ben nodded. “Makes sense. I imagine it’s difficult to keep track of everyone in a big city. Is there more than one pack here?”
“There are four packs in the area, but the Moon pack is the only one in the city and Silver supervises the entire Northwest. Most consider him the strongest wolf in the United States. Anthony, who you just met, is an architect and is currently building a hotel to host out-of-town paranaturals.”
Thomas nodded. “We’re pretty proud of him. He was reluctant to be Silver’s mate at first because he lost a lover to a heart attack some years ago, but he’s settled in well. As you can see, they still have some power issues to work out. We won’t have that kind of problem.”
He watched his mate puff up his chest like an animal trying to make himself bigger. “And why is that?” Ben’s eyes took on a challenging shine.
Damn if that didn’t make his dick stand up and take notice.
“Because although I’m the larger of the two of us, I think we’re pretty evenly paired power-wise. The problem with the alpha and his mate is that they have different types of magic. Silver has issues with having a strong mate who looks like a good wind will knock him on his ass, which is why he usually has a retinue of bodyguards surrounding Anthony. I don’t even want to know where they were this evening; Silver’s going to have some harsh words for someone.”
Thomas could tell by the pleased expression on Ben’s face that they were going to be fine. He rarely met someone he meshed with so quickly. Seeing the man in Ned’s clutches had almost unhinged him. It was fortunate the other werewolf had released his grip on the redhead quickly. He made a mental note to talk to Silver about Ned’s progressively aggressive behavior. They would have to bar him from the club if he kept it up. As much as the place was for werekin to hook up, it was also a place they were supposed to feel safe. They couldn’t have anyone there who scared the other customers. Ben’s panicky expression had Thomas rushing to save him even before he knew they were mates.
He opened the door to his apartment and, after hanging up their jackets, indicated to his mate to proceed to the couch. Thomas kept his promise and left the door unlocked. It wasn’t like anyone was going to interrupt them anyway.
“Sit down, honey.”
He knew his gaze was feral, but he was determined to find out more about his mate before he pinned him down, marked him, and made sure they were bound for eternity. Ben sank down into the soft cushions, his eyes wide with caution.
“This must be nice to nap on,” he said, petting the soft fabric.
Thomas had a brief vision of the man doing the same to him. The redhead’s fingers were long, elegant, and he wanted them wrapped around his cock more than he’d ever wanted anything else in his life. He pushed back those thoughts, using a great deal of restraint.
“I want to learn a little more about you. If we’re going to be mates, we should find out about our likes, dislikes, how old you are, why you left your pack, and what you do for a living.”
Ben winced. “I don’t suppose we could kiss first and answer questions later.”
Thomas laughed. Scooting over, he slid a hand up his mate’s leg. “Tell you what, pretty. For every question you answer, I’ll give you one kiss.” He knew it was probably a terrible idea, but the thought of not touching the other man within the next few seconds was killing him. Both his human and wolf sides wanted the man with an unprecedented need.
“Fair enough,” Ben agreed quickly. “I’m twenty-five.”
He would be lying if he didn’t hope his future mate would’ve started with something more personal. He gave the answer the response it deserved.
Thomas leaned over and gave Ben’s cheek a peck.
“That wasn’t a kiss,” Ben complained.
“A small answer gets you a small kiss. Besides, you’re just a baby. I’ve got a hundred years on you,” Thomas teased.
“Wow.” Ben’s eyes went wide, making Thomas wonder if age was going to be a problem between them. In general, werekin didn’t worry about age differences because they lived long lives. What would be an insurmountable age gap in a human couple wasn’t worth mentioning between werekin.
“Does the age difference bother you?” Thomas asked.
“No. I was just surprised.” Ben’s expression hadn’t changed from wide-eyed wonder.
“Yeah, that’s real convincing.”
Ben rolled his eyes. “Give me a moment to adjust, all right? Not everyone learns their mate is so much older than them.”
Mate. The word made Thomas smile.
He leaned over, sliding his fingers into Ben’s hair, gripping the man’s head in a firm hold. “I believe I owe you another kiss to convince you of my worthiness as a potential mate.”
“Yes, I believe you do,” Ben agreed.
This time, the kiss wasn’t chaste, light, or brief. This time, Thomas searched for the size and shape of Ben’s tonsils. He took Ben’s mouth like a parched man seeking the last drop of water in a desert.
One kiss blurred into two, until the sexy redhead lay shirtless beneath him. Thomas nipped and sucked the smaller man’s nipples. Pleased with the reaction, he kept it up, palming the ridge in his mate’s pants as Ben squirmed beneath his touch.
“Fuck questions, I need to feel you around me.” Thomas froze as an unwelcome thought entered his mind. “You will bottom, right? I don’t mind switching back and forth in the future, but right now, I need to claim you.” He barely breathed as he waited for his mate’s answer.
“I won’t always be on the bottom, but for tonight, I’m all yours.” Ben leaned back and let Thomas’s hot mouth take control.
Unable to resist the need for bare skin-to-skin contact, Thomas’s touch was sure and confident as he stripped off his mate’s clothes in swift, economical movements before removing his own. He barely got a glimpse of smooth white skin, with a sexy sprinkling of red hair, before he covered the younger man with his body.
“Hey! I didn’t get to look,” Ben protested.
“Why bother to look when it’s so much better to feel?” Thomas growled, sliding his body across Ben’s and sending shivers of need through his smaller frame.
He was careful not to put his full weight on the younger man. He didn’t want to crush his newly found mate. He wanted to bond with him.