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Sometimes you need a grand gesture to prove your love, and sometimes a bear hug will do.
Harris Bender had a crush on vampire leader Rohan, so when the alpha male requests him to paint a mural, he can only say yes. However, after a passionate encounter, Harris discovered Rohan is his mate.
Is the carefree artist ready to settle down with one man even if he’s extremely hot?
Rohan had been looking for his blood bonded for centuries. One taste of the bear shifter’s blood and he knows he’s found the one. However, outside forces threaten to tear the couple apart. It will take more than a flash of fang to put them in their place.
Harris Bender watched as the vampire leader, Rohan, lit the caskets on fire. Vampires didn’t bury their dead, they freed their souls by burning their bodies in a tradition as old as time.
The flames cast shadows on Rohan’s face, giving his handsome face harsh angles beneath sharp cheekbones. To Harris, Rohan appeared beautiful at any angle. His fingers itched for a pencil to sketch out the scene.
The heavy weight of silence coated the proceedings as if surrounded by an invisible shield. No one fidgeted or rustled. No birds sang in the distance. Even the bugs held their chirps and buzzes until Rohan finished his eulogy for the vampires who had passed. Rohan’s sorrow pierced Harris’ heart, as if he had personally experienced their loss when, in fact, he’d barely met them.
Poisoned blood from human donors had killed three vampires, compliments of the sorcerers.
Eaton had saved the rest of them by warning the vampires of the problem but not soon enough to save this trio. Unfortunately, the sorcerers had gone underground where no one could find them, so the vampires weren’t able to retaliate.
Harris didn’t have to be there. He didn’t belong to the coven and wasn’t a vampire. However, he couldn’t let Rohan mourn alone. The few weeks he’d worked for the master vampire had forged an odd friendship between the two men. A relationship Harris planned to take to the next level soon. Rohan called Harris his beloved but hadn’t made any further moves despite the longing looks and possessive behavior. After Rohan had a chance to mourn his friends, Harris would show the vampire he didn’t have to be alone.
Rohan had come to Harris’ aid when Eaton had been kidnapped, and although Rohan didn’t end up having to do anything, having the vampire leader there had given Harris the emotional support he needed. Harris wanted to return the favor.
When the vampire turned around, he immediately searched the crowd. Harris saw the vampire relax when Rohan caught sight of him.
After whispering something to the people milling to his right, Rohan walked over to join Harris.
Without ceremony, Rohan wrapped a proprietary arm around Harris and scooted him to one side, putting Rohan’s body between Harris and the other vampires. Rohan didn’t like other people too close to Harris. For some reason, ever since Harris started working for him, Rohan had watched over him like a dog with his bone.
“You doing all right?” Harris whispered. He fought against the urge to hug Rohan closer. The vampire leader probably wouldn’t appreciate coddling in front of his people. The way they stood now, Rohan could’ve been offering support to Harris. Harris knew Rohan was absorbing some of his calm. The vampire had said before that Harris zen-like peace soothed Rohan deep inside.
Apparently, the closer the proximity, the better the calming took.
Ignoring everyone else, Harris scooted closer to offer his presence if not his clumsy words of sympathy. He’d always been more of a person of action, not verbal expression.
Rohan had taken his vampires’ deaths hard since he hadn’t been able to prevent the poisoning.
Sorcerers and vampires were mortal enemies, but from what Harris had heard, they’d been in a semi-truce for years. Until sorcerers had poisoned the humans the vampires used for food, they had no idea the sorcerers were going to attack.
Rohan didn’t speak, but he slid a hand down from Harris’ shoulder as he stepped away and tangled their fingers together instead. “Thanks for being here,” he murmured in Harris’ ear, a soft, intimate sound. His breath brushed across the soft hairs of Harris’ ear lobe. Harris fought back both a shiver and the urge to turn his head for a kiss.
Before Harris could give in to any of his urges and after a quick squeeze of Harris’ fingers, Rohan released him and stepped away. Harris immediately missed the vampire’s presence. His inner animal yearned for contact with Rohan as if Harris couldn’t be complete without being close.
“You’re welcome. I’d do a lot more for you…” Harris confessed. He turned bright red. When would he learn not to say everything in his head?
With his friends, his tendency to blurt things out was mildly embarrassing. With Rohan, it reached a more humiliating level. He might as well strip naked and throw himself at Rohan’s feet.
Rohan turned to give Harris his full attention.
He cupped Harris’ cheek with one elegant hand.
“I’d love to hear about what you might be willing to do. Later,” Rohan said.
Rubbing his cheek against the vampire leader’s palm, Harris lost track of his thoughts. There was
little he wasn’t willing to do to have Rohan touch Harris as if he cared. His inner beast fought to come out and play.
“Easy, beloved,” Rohan said. “Keep the calm I love so much.”
Harris wondered how Rohan could toss such words around. Beloved. Love. Did the vampire not understand the power of words? That a foolish bear’s heart might patter a bit faster when presented with even casually tossed affection.
Harris took long, slow breaths to pull his bear back under his control. Years of meditation had kept Harris mellow in the face of true emergencies. Aden had sent him to a monk years before to gain the skills needed to find his inner calm and keep his bear subdued unless needed.
Unfortunately, whenever Rohan touched someone else, Harris had to wrestle back his inner beast. No
one should touch Rohan or speak to him unnecessarily or look in his direction. Yeah, maybe I do have a bit of an obsession going.
He worried over his reaction to Rohan. When shifters became possessive, it usually meant they’d found their mate. Harris didn’t know if he was ready for that level of commitment. He liked Rohan, but vampires were different than shifters.
“Come on, let’s get you to bed. You’ve had a long day. This is the part of the ceremony where people go to mourn alone,” Rohan said. He took Harris’ arm and led him back into the house, then up the stairs.
Harris dug in his heels at the top. What is going on?
“Did I move in here?” Harris asked, confused.
He’d come to support Rohan during the funeral, but he’d had every intention of returning home afterward. He had already spent his day sketching out his concept on the wall by the foyer. Harris didn’t need to live there.
“I like you close by,” Rohan said, his words final, as if he’d closed the subject. Nothing showed on the vampire’s face. No teasing smile. No forbidding scowl. He acted as if Harris was the one acting strange.
Harris tried to object. He opened his mouth to complain, to voice a negative response. He couldn’t. Every atom in his body responded to Rohan. Harris tamely let the vampire lead him down the hall to an empty bedroom. A large bed filled most of the space along with a wardrobe, a side table and little else. Harris spotted two more doors in the room. “Where do those go?”
Rohan pointed to the left. “Bathroom.” He pointed to the right. “My room.”
“Your room?” Harris tried to hide his surprise.
He’d initially hoped Rohan might be taking him to the vampire’s bedroom. The fact Rohan gave him a choice raised his estimation in Harris’ eyes no matter how stupid his supposition.
“Something wrong?” Rohan asked.
“Um, no. Nothing wrong.” Harris tried to shove his desires to the darkest corner of his mind.
Rohan didn’t need him drooling over him while he was still wrapped in sorrow over the death of his coven mates.
Rohan cupped Harris’ face between his palms.
“You would tell me if you had a problem, right?
The only reason I want you to stay is because it’s late and you’re tired. If you want to sleep in your own bed tomorrow, you can.”
“What if I want to stay in your bed?” Damn, his runaway mouth had taken over again. Of course, there were always the benefits of healing sex.
Rohan frowned. “I don’t think you’re ready to be in my bed, Harris. As much as I’d like you there, I don’t want you to feel pressured.”
A tingle of yearning sizzled between them.
Need pulled at Harris like a physical force. “You want me. I know you do.”
Rohan dipped his head, placing his lips next to Harris’ ear. He spoke in his whiskey-smooth voice, “I want you so much, I would give up blood to have you.”
Harris jerked back. “I thought you couldn’t have sex without biting.”
“For you, I would.” Rohan’s sincerity couldn’t be faked.
Harris licked his lips. “Kiss me.” If nothing else, he’d get at least one kiss before being sent to bed like a child.
Rohan didn’t bother to ask Harris if he was certain before he wrapped his fingers around Harris’ head and held him still. Pressing his lips against Harris’ mouth, he sucked and licked until he gained entrance.