Harkin Page felt the onset of a tension headache. He unconsciously hunched his shoulders when things got serious and the longer that lasted, the more his neck protested. Then the back of his head developed its own pulse and his patience started slipping.
The situation was over—or temporarily solved—thanks to some quick thinking by Finn Webb, so Harkin should be taking it easier now. Even if Finn was partially responsible for causing the trouble, it had answered a much bigger question that had been gnawing at Harkin for two years. When Alpha Lupescu took over—and, in all honesty, Harkin had been glad someone higher up was around to take on the issue that had exploded into a crisis—he should’ve been able to relax. It was entirely outside his scope of knowledge and power to deal with something that affected every werewolf the world over. He wasn’t usually the type to claim something wasn’t his job, but in this case, thank god it wasn’t.
Now, he attempted to decompress while he got some clothes on in the main room of his cabin. Though the danger had gone back down the hill and into town, Harkin still had a pack to reassure. Probably wouldn’t have to explain much. By now, they’d all know why they hadn’t been able to enter Isherwood without shifting, so no need for a big meeting. He’d do that once he knew what Lupescu planned to do. Should someone ever tell him about Lupescu’s plans. It was possible the whole thing would get covered up fast and deep.
And he was okay with that.
Dressed now in a long-sleeved T and jeans, Harkin turned as Danny, one of his betas, came into the cabin.
“Turns out,” Danny said, “one of the wolves with Finn is someone he knows. Some humans are on their way up to meet him.”
“None of the wolves smelled familiar to me.” He’d made sure to check, just in case any of the victims had been his pack members. “Did they to you?”
Danny shook his head. “Guy says he’s Dufresne’s pack. Went missing a couple years ago and has family in Isherwood.”
Harkin nodded. “I’ll give them room. Is Alpha Lupescu still around?”
“Yes. He wanted a word.”
Danny preceded him out the door and, suddenly, the high-pitched hmm-hmm-hmm whine of a young, very unhappy wolf cut through the air. Harkin frowned. The stress of a pack member, even the lowest ranked, always concerned him, but this… Why did this wolf’s distress pierce right into him? The visceral tug was almost as if his mate called to him for help. Which was crazy because he didn’t have a mate. Whoever called like that—
Was his mate. The mate he’d been searching for. The one he’d hoped someday to find.
Someday was now.
Danny looked at Harkin with eyebrows raised.
“That’s my—” But something wasn’t right. He didn’t want Danny so close. “Shit. Get back. That’s my mate calling.”
Thankfully, Danny and the other two betas already outside knew what their alpha finding his mate meant for them and the whole rest of the pack besides. They swiftly left Harkin’s cabin and cleared away the pack members milling around outside. One of them hollered for the elenktí to come quick, and thank god Aurelius Conti was there right then.
The irrational mistrust coursing through Harkin was tough to beat back. He knew intellectually that not one member of his pack would ever try to take away or harm his mate. But that was his human mind, and the wolf was in charge right now. The wolf who saw other wolves between him and his mate as a threat. Already he was snarling, feeling the wolf wanting out, and steps away from crossing his threshold and reaching his pack. He braced his hands on the doorframe. He was rapidly losing control.
He groaned from the abrupt disappearance of those insane emotions. They were just gone, leaving his muscles quivering with a need to run into an attack, but no longer having a reason to. His heart still pounded, but his mind was clearer, rationality restored. When he looked up, he whined with relief.
Aurelius Conti stood several feet away. The short, slender man clasped his hands and cocked his head inquisitively while his large eyes gazed steadily at Harkin, the recipient of his empathic abilities. Thank god for elenktés.
“My mate’s here,” Harkin said and walked outside. The whine from his mate amped up to a higher pitch, a longer duration, and Harkin scanned the crowd, trying to see who called to him.
“He is by the drive,” Aurelius said in his smooth Italian accent. “I’ll follow you.”
Harkin smiled and started trotting toward the main driveway. His mate was male. He’d wondered. He didn’t care what gender his partner was so much as what sort of personality they had, so he’d wondered where Fate might stand on the issue of true mates. It seemed Fate didn’t care either.
“Where are you?”
Hearing the desperation of that plea made Harkin run. He didn’t bother to make sure Aurelius still followed him since his emotions were less about false danger and more about comfort and reassurance. Harkin pushed through a throng of people and there… Oh, there stood his mate. The poor guy was hugging himself, trembling and crying like he thought no one would come to him.
Harkin didn’t think, he just rushed forward and grabbed his mate in a tight embrace. Strong fingers gripped his shirt and the man’s head tucked perfectly under Harkin’s chin. The scent of him, beneath the stress, was the best thing Harkin had ever known. Notes of vanilla, cardamom and ginger were so familiar, held such a sense of home. He knew this man was his.
He relaxed his hold on his mate and gently encouraged him to look up. Young, early twenties at most, big blue eyes swimming in tears, wine-red lips, faint stubble darkening his jaw, and warm brown hair in shaggy layers all around his handsome face.
And because Harkin had begun to think he might never find his mate, his first words to him were, “Where have you been?” Harkin’s voice was so tight he could barely get the words out.
“I…” He gulped and blinked more tears onto his cheeks. “I think I was lost.”
“Not anymore.” Harkin smiled at that earnest face. “Welcome home.”
Harkin cradled his mate with one hand on his head and the other across his back. As distraught as he’d been, Harkin wanted him to feel safe, to believe everything would be okay because they were together now. Mates had an instant connection that Harkin had yearned to experience. That bond would grow stronger between he and this man than any relationship either of them might form with anyone else. Already, Harkin could feel the need to protect, provide for, and understand the man in his arms.
And the desire. Lots of that pulsing through him now, too. Hoo-boy.
Those burgundy lips pressed to Harkin’s neck, then parted so a wet tongue could give him a tiny lick. The spike of need that shot through him required more. Harkin got a handful of his mate’s hair and hauled his face around so he could kiss him.
So right. He’d kissed plenty of men and women, but there was a definite kick of potency to kissing his mate. And Harkin knew his mate felt it, too, since he pushed up and pulled closer and dueled with Harkin for control of the kiss. Bold, demanding, and determined, he made Harkin smile before letting his young mate win and claim his mouth.
But Harkin broke the kiss at the sound of sudden raised voices. He looked over toward Finn, a man on his knees at Finn’s feet, and a woman in a night shirt and slippers glaring at both of them. “You are not biting my husband,” she said and shoved at Finn. “And I ask again, what the hell is going on?”
Harkin took in the scene. Finn looked pissed, which had to mean Aurelius was letting him feel that way. Harkin might not know who the man on his knees was, but it seemed Finn was about to dole out some punishment. Why?
His mate pushed away from Harkin, who had no choice but to follow him toward the others. At least now he knew who the man and woman were, but why were they here? For that matter, why was his mate here? Wait a minute. Was this the family of the missing wolf Danny had mentioned?
Harkin watched Finn wipe a hand down his face before he looked at Aurelius. “Go ahead and even me out again. I don’t want to do this now.”
Finn’s shoulders relaxed and he rested his weight on one leg more than the other. When he looked over, he appeared weary and resigned. “Kieran, kiddo, do you know what’s going on?”
Kieran shook his head, then looked over his shoulder at Harkin. When he smiled tentatively, Harkin just had to go over and loop his arms around his mate’s waist. Kieran. It sounded both adorable and old-world Irish. Which made Harkin think of kilts, which led to thinking of bare, hairy legs, and he had to stomp on that thought or he’d start humping the guy. Especially since Kieran chose that moment to relax back against him and sigh.
“Okay, Harkin, Kieran doesn’t know what he is. I apologize on behalf of my idiot brother-in-law, but I figure you can help Kieran better than anyone now, right?”
Well, that was odd since Kieran smelled like a werewolf, but fine, Harkin just smiled. He could do that, no problem. “I’ll explain everything,” he said to Finn. Then he kissed Kieran’s temple because he was sure— “You know more than you think you do, sweetheart.”
Kieran turned around in Harkin’s arms.
“You’ll tell me what’s going on?” Less stressed now, his voice was a soft tenor.
“Yes. I’ll explain everything.”
Kieran rubbed at his cheeks, wiping away tears. “Okay.”
Over Kieran’s head, Harkin looked to Finn. “Finn?” he hollered and, when he had Finn’s attention, Harkin cocked his head toward his cabin. Though he outranked Finn, he didn’t want to throw that around while basically eloping with the man’s nephew.
It took a moment for Finn to catch on, but thankfully, he grinned and nodded.
Harkin grasped Kieran’s hand and started walking away from the continuing spectacle of whatever else Finn was doing. Some part of Harkin felt bad for separating a family during stress, but if things went as Harkin hoped, he and Kieran would want to be alone.
Harkin glanced back, relieved to see Aurelius watching them walk away. He probably had the bulk of his elenktí power focused on Harkin, but that was a good thing. All Harkin felt at the moment was a jumble of surprise, awe, gratitude and joy.
And lust. A shit-ton of panting lust.
But there was so much Kieran might not know. Finn’s warning instilled in Harkin just enough worry to make him sweat. This had to go well. It would kill him if Kieran didn’t want their relationship to progress, too. A glance down showed Kieran filling out his sweatpants nicely, so he felt the desire, but the rest would require commitment.
“Where are we going?”
“My cabin. There.” Harkin pointed and suddenly worried whether Kieran would like it. They would have to live there since Harkin was alpha; he couldn’t leave his pack. The mounting complications, the pressure to make everything perfect so he could keep his mate, had his heart rate climbing. He realized Aurelius must have released him from his empathic control if he was allowed that dose of mild panic.
Harkin furtively scanned the area, and then quickly ushered Kieran inside. With the door closed between them and the rest of the pack, Harkin was at least able to put his paranoia on hold. No one would interrupt them, so they were safe to work out…everything.
Kieran gave him a tentative smile and crossed his arms. He had on sneakers with no socks, the deliciously obscene sweatpants messing with Harkin’s libido, and a T-shirt that set off his blue eyes. He’d obviously left home in a hurry.
“I’m sorry to drag you away,” Harkin said and gestured to the sofa. “There are a lot of things we need to talk about, though.”
“I think…” Kieran sighed as he went over to sit. “I feel like maybe I need to be here right now.” His gaze met Harkin’s and he frowned like he was confused while also being certain. “Like I can talk to my dad later and that’s okay.”
“It is okay.” He stepped toward the kitchen, then hesitated. “Do you want anything? Coffee? Snack? Are you cold?” He walked closer. Paused again. “I can get you a sweater or blanket.”
Kieran smiled like maybe Harkin was charming him. “Can we just dive in?”
For just a moment, Harkin thought sex. “Hell, yes.” But Kieran meant talking. Harkin knew that’s what he meant. “Right. Let’s talk.”
And he suddenly had no idea what to say. He sat down, scooted back, tried to get comfortable with a hard-on pulsing in his lap and the scent of his mate teasing him with every breath. Long night. god, but it was going to be a long damn night.
“So,” Kieran said, then cleared his throat. “Are you all some kind of…of, um, church-run commune or—”
“No, we’re not. We live together and have a purpose, but there’s no religion. Or Kool-Aid.” He’d meant that as a joke, smiled even, but Kieran just nodded and gulped.
“Do you believe me?”
He shrugged. “Sure. I just… I’ve had some experience with— They called themselves the…the Academy of Divine Living.” He huddled into himself a little more and whispered, “But they weren’t anything good.”
Harkin tried to keep his emotions even, but… His mate… How dare they? That anyone could hurt such a sweet, gentle soul as this young man was evil. He might not be able to see scars, but it was obvious Kieran bore them deep inside.
Heart pounding, he reached out and combed his fingers through Kieran’s thick, brown hair. He needed the contact, needed to offer reassurance. Over and over, from the back of his head and down his neck, Harkin petted his mate and watched Kieran relax into the touch. When Kieran shifted slightly closer, Harkin reached over and pulled him in to hold him. Thankfully, Kieran didn’t resist.
But just as quickly, Kieran tried to sit back. “Sorry. I don’t mean to cling.”
Pink tinged Kieran’s cheeks as he smiled shyly. He scooted so he was pressed along Harkin’s side from shoulder to knee, and then leaned in again when Harkin put his arm across his shoulders.
“I’m just confused and have so many questions.”
“I think I can answer the biggest of them, the one that’ll explain the not-a-cult situation best. The thing is, though…” He tipped Kieran’s chin up. “I need you to know this isn’t a joke or a prank. I am completely serious and what I’m about to tell you has to be kept confidential. Only those with a connection like you and I can ever know for the safety of all of us.”
Eyes wide, he stared up at Harkin. “Like Witness Protection or something?”
“That serious, at least.”
“Why tell me?”
Harkin traced that plump bottom lip with his thumb. Kieran’s mouth popped open on a quiet gasp, so Harkin caressed him again. This time, Kieran’s tongue snuck out to lick his thumb as it passed. There was need in those blue eyes.
“This is why,” Harkin said before pulling Kieran into another kiss.
Kieran was tentative for a second or two, but then he opened up and moved in closer. Twisting around to press their chests together, Harkin gripped at Kieran’s thin shirt and gave himself over to learning the feel and taste of his mate. That simmering desire heated up to boiling when Kieran swung around to straddle Harkin’s lap. “Oh, god, yeah. Good idea.”
After the troubling confession, seeing Kieran smile down at him was like a fire pushing back a winter chill. He was strong and lovely, a survivor, a fighter, and if he needed anything, Harkin wanted to be the one to give it to him just for more smiles like that one.
“Is this okay?” Kieran pushed up Harkin’s shirt.
“Definitely.” He grabbed the shirt at the back of his neck and hauled it over his head. He grinned at the brief, needy whine that escaped Kieran.
Long artist’s fingers combed through his chest hair, and Harkin watched Kieran’s gaze follow the paths his hands took. He looked young, like he was making discoveries, and it struck Harkin that Kieran might be inexperienced. He liked that. Seeing the wonder on Kieran’s face lit him up inside.
Harkin encouraged Kieran’s arms up, then whipped his T-shirt off. With it flung away, Kieran slid down, rubbing their chests together, but also pressing his thickening dick against Harkin’s belly. Immediately, his hands shot down the back of Kieran’s sweatpants and encountered nothing but warm, squeezable cheeks. Kieran whined again and rocked his hips.
“Ever felt it this strongly?”
Kieran blinked twice. “It?”
“Desire.” His voice sounded subterranean. “Stark, desperate want.”
“Oh, god.” Kieran closed his mouth and swallowed. Then he took a deep breath through his nose and his eyelids fluttered shut. “I can smell how much you… And you smell so…” He whined like he was frustrated.
Harkin chuckled and kissed one barely stubbled cheek. “Good, I hope.”
“This is why, sweetheart.”
Harkin smiled up at all that dazed passion. “This is why you need to be here right now. It’s why I have to tell you everything.”
He lifted up and pushed Kieran over onto his back on the sofa, then stripped those sweatpants off his long, lean legs. Trailing his hands up over furry calves, strong thighs, and the silky skin of his groin, Harkin watched Kieran’s eyes dilate and the shiver that cascaded over him. He licked up the red stalk of Kieran’s cock, got a shocked shout, then loomed over him with the tang of him on his tongue.
“I need you, Kieran, and you need me. That’s why.”
Kieran nodded, panting, and held Harkin’s face in both shaking hands. When he pulled, Harkin leaned down and met him in a kiss that was slow and deep this time. He wanted more, wanted sex, but Kieran was gentle with his lips and he didn’t want to rush him.
Kieran’s hand smoothed down the dips and plains of Harkin’s back only to run into the waistband of his jeans. Kieran gave a little growl and looked up at Harkin with a frown on his handsome face.
Chuckling at the silent demand, Harkin used one hand to fumble open his torturous jeans while he held himself above Kieran. When he had the zipper all the way down, he hooked a thumb in the waist and pushed down jeans and briefs. The material scraped, made him groan, but he switched hands and managed to get everything to his knees. His cock slapped down onto Kieran’s, and they both cried out from the sharp sensation.
Expression wanting, hands reaching, Kieran encouraged Harkin to lay on top of him. The heat and feel of Kieran’s body under his undid Harkin’s resolve to take his time. He covered his mate and rocked against him, need building with every increasingly desperate kiss. When Kieran got a leg free and started rubbing his inner thigh against him, Harkin reached down and pushed it up.
Positioned like this, holding Kieran’s leg behind his knee, Harkin wanted nothing more than to drive himself into Kieran’s sweet, young…virginal? Wait. Oh, fuck. It was possible— He had to be sure— “Have you done this before?”
Kieran swallowed hard. “What…exactly?”
That he didn’t know said it loud enough, but Harkin clarified anyway. “Been fucked?”
Quickly, Kieran shook his head. His eyes were wide, startled, and his hands touched Harkin’s shoulders like he wasn’t sure if he wanted to reach for him or shove him away.
Harkin couldn’t help it, he growled as he sat back on his heels.
“We can. I mean, you can.” Kieran sat up. “If you want.”
Harkin shook his head and gulped, fighting for control. “I don’t have the patience you deserve right this second, sweetheart.”
Yes, he wanted to claim his mate, but no way in hell was he going to be any sort of rough on a virgin. Though, thank you god, Kieran was his, all his, and it felt like his wolf might be jumping around and barking happily inside him. He tried for deep, slow breaths to maybe bring himself down. If he could get enough control back, he might be able to manage— god, no. Might be? No, he wasn’t doing maybe.
“I could give you a blowjob.”
That snapped his attention back to Kieran. “Yeah?”
Kieran licked his lips and nodded.
“I want you to be mine, so be sure you want to do that.”
Kieran’s blue eyes flicked down to stare at Harkin’s cock for a moment. When he looked up, he was grinning. “I want both. To be yours and…that.”
Grinning and certain it was salacious, Harkin swung his legs over the side of the couch. He didn’t require submission from his partners normally, but he recognized he needed it from Kieran right now. Later, they could do whatever whichever way they wanted, but this time, just to calm his wolf, Harkin would take what he could get and love it.
Kieran got down onto his knees on a throw pillow. He stared for a moment at Harkin’s groin, then looked up. Harkin chuckled when Kieran waggled his eyebrows and smirked. Pleased with everything he had under his power? Harkin thumbed Kieran’s cheek and leaned in to kiss him. “Yeah, sweetheart, I’m all yours.”
Kieran hummed softly and set his hands lightly on Harkin’s thighs. The muscles jumped.
“Do whatever you want.”
“Yep.” Harkin laughed breathlessly because there was a beautiful young man on his knees between his legs, for god’s sake. “Just know I’m pretty far gone on you already.”
“I can see that,” he said with a cheeky grin. He leaned in and licked a drop from the slit of Harkin’s dick. “Mmm.”
Oh, Harkin was in for it. This would be the most torturously perfect suck off of his life. He took deep breaths and braced himself, eyes on every move Kieran made as he moved in and took him in hand. In seconds, Harkin knew the kid for a tease, but he didn’t want to make him stop playing. That grin was worth the brilliant agony of a wily tongue and nimble fingers urging him closer to the brink. More than any sensation, it was the sight of his mate enjoying his body that made Harkin fly.
Fingers dug into the cushions, his head snapped back, eyes shut and breath caught, while heat washed through him and ecstasy followed. He shook and panted, then pried his eyes open when Kieran’s touch vanished. He grunted and watched his dick shoot twice more onto Kieran’s flushed face. White hit his chin and his plump, wet bottom lip… Those big eyes blinking up at him all startled… Harkin groaned and leaned down, cupped the back of Kieran’s head, and lapped at the mess. The heat of those hard-working lips and the combined taste of himself and his mate had Harkin fighting back the urge to throw back his head and howl.
Why fight that?
He leaned back, sat up taller, and let loose the most triumphant howl of his life. In moments, his pack members echoed him, sharing in his joy and, yeah, they probably knew why. He smiled.
But then Kieran stumbled up onto his feet, one hand over his heart. His eyes were wide in shock now and he trembled when he looked from the door back to Harkin. “What… What was that?”
Shit. Harkin could do little more than blink and swallow for a moment. He hadn’t really explained anything. He’d needed, Kieran had consented, and he’d stopped thinking about the fact he hadn’t said a word about what he was.
He reached for Kieran. “I’m sorry. It’s all right.”
He took a step toward Harkin, but then glanced back at the door and covered his waning erection and bare chest. His gaze flicked down to his clothes.
Harkin grabbed the blanket from the back of the sofa. “Here,” he said and offered it to him. Dressing seemed bad, like Kieran might flee, and though Harkin had messed up, he needed to fix it now without losing his mate. “I got carried away, but you’re right, we have things to talk about.”
Kieran nodded and accepted the blanket, wrapping it around himself and sitting back down. Those big eyes looked wary, but curious. He was trusting Harkin to explain again, and that was a huge gift.
Since his jeans and briefs were still around his ankles, Harkin stood up and tugged them into place. He left the zipper undone optimistically. Probably foolishly since he now had to say, “We’re werewolves, Kieran. Most everyone out there and myself can transform into wolves.”
Kieran shut his eyes and panted before he brought a shaking hand up to cover his mouth. He let go of the blanket as he leaned forward, the navy blue knit pooling around his waist. Harkin wasn’t sure what to do about how Kieran folded himself over his knees and didn’t make a sound.
Then Kieran sat back, inhaling as he did, to slump against the back of the couch. Harkin took a chance and rested his hand on Kieran’s shoulder. Looked a bit like something had just fallen into place for Kieran. He seemed accepting. Harkin had thought he’d have to prove his abilities.
“I followed my dad once,” Kieran said, his voice quiet but strong. “I was, like, sixteen and I’d gotten a joint from a friend.” His blue eyes flicked to Harkin’s face. “I’d just wanted to see what it was like.”
Harkin shrugged. “Okay.”
“Okay. So I went out into the forest by myself and I was just figuring out how not to choke to death, maybe feeling a buzz, when I saw somebody walk by. They weren’t close, but I freaked thinking they’d find me.” Another glance, like he had to justify something. “My mom’s huge on no drugs and she knows, like, everyone, so I knew it’d get back to her. But then I…” He swallowed hard and looked away. “I could smell the guy and I knew it was my dad. He didn’t look like he was trying to find me, though, so I was, like, what’s he doing out here?”
He seemed to realize he’d let the blanket go and bundled himself back into it. Harkin sat back, watching him make a cocoon all the way up to his chin. But then Harkin could scent the sour note of Kieran’s stress increasing. He put his hand back on Kieran’s shoulder, trying to keep offering comfort without smothering him.
Eyes on the door, Kieran continued. “I followed him for a while until he stopped and there were other people there. They all talked, looking like it was some kind of meeting, and then some of them started getting undressed.” He let out a harsh laugh. “Now I’m freaking out because that’s my dad and a bunch of people from town all getting naked and what the hell, you know? And they’re putting their clothes into a couple coolers, like for safe-keeping or something, and I’m thinking I gotta get out of here before they start, like, the orgy because no way do I want to see that, oh my god, but then—”
Kieran gasped a couple breaths and shifted around under Harkin’s hand, but he didn’t take it away. Whatever was coming had Kieran smelling like fear, and it tugged at Harkin’s need to protect and defend. He wanted to stop this, knew what was coming, but suspected Kieran needed to work through it himself.
“They all started groaning and stuff and then they were on the ground and they weren’t people anymore, they were…” He gasped a breath, then gulped. “They were wolves. Black, gray, white, and my dad—my dad—is this brown holy fucking wolf.” He started trembling. “I thought I was losing my mind, like what the hell did Chris put in that weed because I’m hallucinating my ass off in the goddamn woods thinking my dad’s a werewolf. And the guy who owns Best Friends Restaurant, and the Walgreen’s pharmacist, and my mom’s stylist… I’m tripping, I gotta be.”
He turned and pinned those pained eyes on Harkin. “But now you’re saying I wasn’t. I really saw that.” His expression crumbled into pain. “And, oh my god, because if my dad’s a werewolf, then what the hell am I? Huh? What am I?”
Harkin swallowed hard, part of him afraid to add more onto Kieran’s overfull plate. “You’re a werewolf, too.”
Kieran looked away, that hideous smile of grief stretching his features before he sobbed, just once, and covered his mouth. Harkin couldn’t let him pull back, try to deal on his own, and so he reached for him. Kieran resisted some, but then spun, held on, and let out everything he was feeling. Not bothering with platitudes, Harkin just held his mate close and tight.
How long had he been holding that in? Wondering, confused and afraid? He couldn’t be too far into his twenties, but that still made it about four years worth of not knowing. If he’d clung to the idea the weed had been laced with something else, he might never have said a word to anyone, let alone the father who could’ve explained everything. And who had then been taken from him? He might never have had a chance.
When Kieran’s trembling subsided and he just leaned hard into Harkin, he finally said, “It’ll be okay.”
“Yeah, maybe.” He sniffed, then sighed. “I guess now I know why I’ve never really felt like I fit in. I think my senses are stronger and I’ve always—” He cut himself off and turned his face into Harkin’s chest. “I’ve always wanted to be part of something bigger.”
The cult. He’d joined up trying to find a pack. Harkin hugged him tighter just imagining how awful it must have been to not fit in with humans without knowing there was anything else to be. Whatever he’d endured in that place must have been devastating to him on more levels than he’d known how to understand.
Kieran cleared his throat and tried to sit back. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t mind,” he said, not letting him go.
“I’m not usually such a girl.”
“You’re not being one now.” He kept one arm around him and wiped away tears with his free hand. Kieran just watched him warily, but didn’t try to move away again. “Sounds like you’ve had a lot going on and no one to talk to about it all. I want to be someone you can talk to, sweetheart.”
His chin wobbled, then he closed his mouth and swallowed hard. A moment later, he leaned back in, resting his head on Harkin’s shoulder. “I feel like I understand myself so much more in the time I’ve been here with you than in my whole life before now,” he said quietly.
Harkin smiled and cuddled him closer. “Good. That’s good.”
“And I gave my first blowjob too.” He sat up and smirked.
He grinned back. “Your first, huh?”
His smile faded, and Harkin knew he was weighing whether to ask if it had been okay.
“It was perfect,” he said and kissed him softly.
The taste of himself mixed with the salt of Kieran’s tears had him licking that plump lip and the faint bristle around his mouth. Kieran moaned, head tilted back, and opened his mouth. So he likes that… Harkin licked along his jaw, enjoying the rasp of stubble on his tongue, and headed for Kieran’s exposed throat. With a light hold on his shaggy hair, Harkin made him arch his neck, and that dragged a groan from him.
He sipped at Kieran’s skin, teased his Adam’s apple with his tongue, and felt the vibration of another wanton moan. Kissing up to his ear, he paused to whisper, “Want me to return the favor?”
Kieran took a shaky breath and nodded, Harkin feeling the tug of Kieran’s hair against his fingers. Eyes shut and a flush staining his cheeks, Kieran relaxed back, giving Harkin the weight of his head. More submission. Harkin growled a low rumble of want this time. Kieran’s hands came up, grasping at Harkin’s chest like he needed to find a hold, and the blanket fell away.
Now Kieran’s scent was back to being aroused. Harkin urged him back against the couch. He let his hair go and trailed his palms down a leanly muscled chest to abs that contracted like Kieran might be ticklish. He swirled his thumb around Kieran’s navel and got a laugh. Chuckling himself, Harkin leaned down and repeated the move with his tongue. This time, Kieran made a little whimpering sound of need. Not able to ignore his mate’s needs, Harkin eased Kieran’s cock into his mouth.
“Oh, fuck,” he barked out and arched up, pushing himself deeper into Harkin.
He smiled around the slim length edging toward his throat and watched Kieran grip the back cushion of the couch. His other arm flailed around as if seeking an anchor. Harkin reached for it and laced their fingers together. It took him a moment, but then Kieran lifted his head and looked down. He smiled until Harkin sucked and his head fell back as he groaned.
Harkin settled into sucking and licking the cock in his mouth and petting every bit of skin he could reach with his free hand. Kieran panted, twitched, writhed restlessly, and kept up a litany of single-word praise for everything Harkin did to him. Seeing him so enjoying himself, knowing he was responsible for it after everything Kieran had been through, had Harkin falling for him already. He knew it was mostly instinct that had him open to such an emotional connection so soon, but he welcomed it with this man.
He wanted to fall in love with Kieran.
When Kieran started gripping his hand tighter, rolling his hips, and getting louder and less coherent, Harkin reached down to pull on half of his cock while he sucked hard on the rest. Give it up. Come on, sweetheart.
The holler out of Kieran sounded damn close to a howl. Harkin opened up and went all the way down to suck slowly back up. Kieran bucked and trembled, letting go of the couch to grip Harkin’s hair. Harkin swallowed every salty spurt and bobbed down one last time. He pulled off and the fingers relaxed as he watched Kieran melt back with a sigh.
“I howled,” he whispered.
Harkin chuckled and leaned over him, kissed his knuckles. “Sort of.”
He huffed a laugh and rubbed at his eye. “You’re really good at that.”
“So are you.”
Kieran shook his head, but he grinned.
“I’m willing to practice whenever you want to.”
With a snort and an eye-roll, Kieran sat up and came in for a kiss. Harkin smiled into it and wrapped his arms around his mate, pulling Kieran around to sit on his lap again. When Kieran settled on him, tucking his nose into Harkin’s neck, Harkin sighed and hugged him.
His contentment slipped away when he realized there was still one more thing to talk about. He took a breath and went for it. “What do you think about sticking around here with me?”
“After that? Uh, yeah.”
That wasn’t what he meant. He knew it was the wolf in him that wanted to make a run for the altar, so to speak. Kieran would probably think that was insane. Harkin needed it, though. He’d found his mate and just had to keep him. But how to say—
“Do you think…” He combed Kieran’s hair back from his face. “Would you consider—”
“More?” he whispered.
“A lot more, yeah.”
That sweet little smile. “I think I’d like that. There’s so much I want to know, and you…” He bit his bottom lip for a moment. “I feel so good when I’m with you. And it’s not just sex, but… There’s… I feel more…normal and also really… Like I’m—”
He took a chance. “Safe?”
Kieran blushed brighter, but he smiled. “Yeah.”
“Then you should definitely stay right here.”
Harkin kissed his cheek, then tucked Kieran against him again, feeling his heart beat. Oh, this was home. Right here, like this, he’d found the exact place he was meant to be.
They had a lot to talk about, some things to work through, but they’d do it. Together, they could do everything.