Stryker has been looking forward to finding his fated mate for decades, but from the start, nothing goes as he’d dreamed. His mate refuses to even meet him, denying the mate bond without giving him a chance and actually running away to avoid hearing the vampire’s pleas.
Joseph sees humans who throw themselves at vampires as weak and stupid, and he has no intention of giving up his free will simply because a vampire orders him to. His heart has been through enough without being forced to pretend he loves someone, so he flees. He wants true love and sees no logic in trusting fate to simply drop the real thing right into his lap.
But Stryker refuses to give up and pursues his mate, prepared to do anything to make Joseph see what he’s really running away from.
Lord Stryker stopped pacing the tiles when he heard his brother sigh. “Sorry,” he said, turning to Ian. “I assumed he’d already be here after I returned from the king’s court. I should’ve made my apologies to the king and gone to find him myself.”
“I didn’t expect you to return so soon. However did you get away from the king? Even simple matters tend to keep you there a week, typically,” Ian said.
Stryker smirked and licked his lips. Running his hands through his short blond hair to get it off his forehead, he said, “I stayed out of his bed this time. I told him I’d found my mate.”
“Was he disappointed?” Ian asked, his tone bland. Ian had always thought Stryker both too promiscuous and too open about said promiscuity. He never came out and said it, but Stryker knew his brother disapproved.
“He and the queen both, though they found younger and more willing diversions easily.” Stryker began to pace again. “I’ll be faithful to my mate. I promise you that.”
Ian shifted, his expression softening. “I frown on certain behaviors out of concern. I’ve no doubt you’ll be faithful once you’re with your mate. My concern for you and Braden has always come from the desire not to see either of you hurt.”
Stryker halted. “You’ve never put it that way before.”
Ian frowned. “You’ve never asked, simply made fun of me for being a prude. Which I am not, by the way.”
Stryker started to protest but stopped himself. Ian was less comfortable with his sexuality than anyone else Stryker had ever known, but with luck, one day Ian’s fated mate would change that. Rubbing his lower lip, Stryker asked, “You’re sure you’ve never met him?”
“No, I don’t recall ever meeting Joseph. Do you know every single person in your dominion?” Ian asked as he crossed his arms. “You travel so much you’re hardly ever there. Joseph has brown hair and blue eyes. He’s said to be handsome.”
“Of course he’ll be handsome!”
Ian laughed. “Of course. What was I thinking?” Sobering, he asked, “Did you expect a male mate? Seems to be happening a lot lately.”
Stryker had noticed that as well, though he laughed at those who theorized about what the gods had planned. “I wasn’t sure what to expect. How old is he?”
“Twenty-six.” Ian rose and moved toward the door. “If you’re so anxious, why not go to the village and ask about him? I have other matters to attend to.”
“I’ll find something to keep me out of your hair.”
Ian smiled. “I promise you’ll be told the moment he arrives.” He exited and left Stryker alone.
Stryker pushed open the doors leading to the balcony and gazed down at the village. His mate had been down there for twenty-six years, yet he hadn’t discovered that until the man had decided to leave. Stryker closed his eyes as he remembered how it had felt when that first drop of blood had hit his tongue. He couldn’t wait to meet his mate and taste every inch of him.