Sean Reynolds is content wielding his dominant personality as the public face of Kagan Industries. Pack leadership—and all the responsibilities that go with it—doesn’t interest him. But when alpha-in-waiting Nic Kagan skips town, there’s no one to take on his aging father’s spirit wolf. No one but Sean.
Sean wants none of it, but with his wolf growling in eagerness to fill that void, he heads for the bar in an attempt to drink the beast into submission.
He’d like to ignore the sultry blonde shifter burning up the dance floor with moves that make him painfully aware of the full moon. But when she abruptly disappears, his wolf sends him in hot pursuit. Following the scent of a female he can see in his bed not for a single night, but for a lifetime…
His wolf’s pissed-off snarl echoed within him. No doubt it disagreed. Not his problem. His wolf wasn’t the only stubborn one, and he refused to allow his primal side to rule him. He would not make the same mistake his friend Nic had.
Sean was too damn young to fall in love. Or in lust. Both could seal a shifter’s fate.
Hands fisted, he strode for the window. As much as he wanted to ignore the full moon, he needed the strength it offered. He shoved the lace curtain aside and stepped into the swatch of moonlight. Warmth infused him, and his wolf calmed. Momentarily, at least. Still, he’d take the brief reprieve. He had a long night ahead of him.
He leaned against the window frame and surveyed the little slice of West Virginia that had served as the Kagan pack’s home since the early seventeen hundreds. Stone paths wove through gardens and around the large, man-made pond. Beyond the still water, a fountain and a gazebo offered a place to sit and relax. Farther out, trees marked the separation of the humans’ town and their territory. Their communal land was beautiful. He loved every inch of it, but at the moment, he wanted to run as far and as fast as he could away from it.
“Greeting the full moon all alone again, huh?”
Noah’s voice cut through the silence of the night.
Sean peered over his shoulder at his cousin. Protective instincts flared. “What are you doing here? Tanner males aren’t allowed on Kagan pack lands.”
“Worried about me?”
“Yes.” As a member of their rival pack, Noah’s presence could be constituted as a threat depending on who saw him. Sean knew better. Noah would give his life if it meant saving one of them. Sean would do the same.
Noah shut the door behind him. With his dark blond hair in a short ponytail and a white T-shirt stretched over his muscled chest, he garnered the attention of males and females alike. One glance into his deadened green eyes, however, and most people steered clear of him. Guilt, anger and loneliness gave him a don’t-fuck-with-me vibe that was hard to miss. Losing a female days after mating her would do that to any male. It gave Sean yet another reason to avoid their women.
“Technically, I’m not on your pack’s lands. The Kagan office sits a few hundred feet inside the humans’ town. As for why I’m here?” Noah leaned against the opposite side of the window. “Your alpha asked me to try to talk some sense into you.”
About Sean’s refusal to shift. Everyone in their pack had been on his ass about it. Their lectures had gotten old. “You’re wasting your time. I’m fine. My wolf’s fine. End of discussion.”
“Is it?” Noah raised a brow. “You’re not getting edgy? Irritable? Or feel like you’re going to come out of your skin?”
If Noah considered insomnia and the new holes Sean had punched into his bedroom walls as fitting those criteria, then the answer would be yes. He shrugged. “Nothing I can’t handle.”
Noah made a noncommittal sound, then glanced out the window, scanning the property the way Sean had. “Any word on Nic? Is he coming home soon?”
“What? No warnings or long speeches about how I’ll go insane if I don’t let my wolf out?”
“Nope. You’re not stupid. You’re just an idiot.”
Sean laughed. “Yeah? What’s the difference?”
“You know the facts. You’re just choosing to ignore them.”
Noah had a point. Sean wouldn’t deny that. He grunted and turned his attention to the backyard. “I’m not shifting until I’m sure I have control over my instincts.”
“And when’s that going to be?”
“Soon.” Or not.
Silence descended in the room while his wolf’s growls reverberated within him, building the pressure behind his eyes. Finally, Noah sighed, breaking the tense moment. “Well?”
“Nic? Any word from him?”
“He called this morning.” Actually, Nic called every day with the same question—how’s Riley? The human female he’d fallen in love with and tried to mate had ruined him, but it wasn’t her fault or his that she’d been born the wrong species. Fate had screwed them both and guaranteed neither would be happy.
“Did he say when he’s coming home?”
“Not until it’s time for his dad to pass on our pack spirit. He wants to enjoy life before he has to pick a shifter female to mate. He’s in no rush to be saddled with a breeding partner.”
“Saddled? Well, that’s a shitty way to look at it. Being mated is a wonderful experience.”
“How would you know? Yours—” Sean groaned and dropped his head against the cool glass. “I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.”
“And completely out of character for you.” No anger darkened Noah’s voice, only understanding. He laid a comforting hand on Sean’s shoulder. “It’s going to get worse. You need to shift and accept what you are. Fighting it is only going to make all your moods stronger, from ones of aggression to passion.”
“You think I don’t know that? It’s why I’ve been fighting to get my wolf to obey me. Without Nic here…” He shook his head, disgusted by his instincts.
“Without Nic here to claim the spirit wolf from his aging father, you’re driven to secure your position in the pack, so you can take over as alpha.”
Noah voiced the truth that had plagued Sean since Nic took off six months prior. In Sean’s wolf’s eyes, Nic’s absence offered Sean the opportunity to seize the most revered role a shifter could hold. His wolf didn’t care that Sean had no desire to be alpha or that the official challenge would claim the life of Nic’s father. It wanted the power the top spot offered.
“I’m newly matured, and I’m horny. I know that’s normal, but every unmated female I come across stirs me. I don’t know if my interest is purely physical or if, subconsciously, I’m shopping for a mate.” Because without a mate to birth him an heir, he’d never be able to hold on to the spot.
Noah dropped his hand. “Stop fighting your wolf and trust yourself. That’s the best advice I can give. There’re no guarantees in life or in love. Remember that. You make a choice, then live with it.”
Sean raised a brow. “Speaking from experience?”
“Yeah.” Noah spun on his heel and walked toward the door. “Call if you need me. It’s not like I have anything better to do with my life.”
The front door banged shut behind him. Sean stared at it for a minute, then grabbed his wallet. “Well, I do, and it involves me, some whiskey and maybe a few beers.”
And a bar where he’d be sure not to stumble across any shifter females.