Erik found his mate Lucas when he was only thirteen and in desperate need of help. Erik stepped in right away to save Lucas and his sisters, and his entire life became about caring for them. But now Lucas is grown up and wants Erik to see him as more than just someone who needs protection. As the ups and downs of life teach them all the true meaning of family, Lucas makes plans to show his vampire that he’s more than ready to be claimed.
Erik kissed Lucas on the cheek and sat next to him on the couch before the fire. “What’s this?” he asked when he saw the bundle sitting between them.
Lucas held it up. “It’s for you.”
“For me? I’m supposed to be the one giving you a present.” He took it and began untying the ribbon.
“You give me more than I could ever need.”
Erik smiled at the sweet words. He drew back the white cloth to reveal a brass chime bell ornamented with moon blossoms. “It’s wonderful. Thank you.”
Lucas grinned. “Violet helped me pick it out.”
“Then be sure to tell her I love it. I’m going to hang it right now.” He stood up and went to the balcony. When he found a free hook, he hung it and tapped the side to make it chime.
Lucas came up behind him and wrapped his arms around his waist. “I’m glad you like it.”
Erik took one of Lucas’s hands and kissed it. “I do.” He turned and put his hands on Lucas’s shoulders. His mate had grown several inches in the past few years, but he still had to tip his head back to look at Erik. “And what do you want for your birthday?”
Erik chuckled. “You already have me. I meant what kind of present. I know you didn’t want a party, but I want to give you something.”
Lucas inched closer and ran his hand down Erik’s chest. “You can, all night long.” His hand worked into Erik’s breeches as he pulled him back inside.
“What are you doing?” Erik asked, drawing back.
Lucas stopped and frowned up at him. “Touching you. I’m your mate, so what’s wrong with that?”
Erik gazed down at him. Had it truly been five years? His mate had grown from a beautiful boy into a handsome man. And that handsome man had needs Erik had grown accustomed to not thinking about. “There’s nothing wrong with it. You surprised me. That’s all.”
His frown deepened. “Surprised you?”
“Yes.” He cupped Lucas’s cheek. “I’m sorry. I’m so used to protecting you and your sisters. As I watched you all grow, I guess I simply didn’t notice you becoming a man.”
“Didn’t notice?” Lucas said, the repetition sounding hollow as his frown became a glare.
“Well, of course I noticed you growing, but you’re so much younger than I am.”
“You’re young for a vampire. You’re only fifty.”
“Yes, but vampires don’t come of age until they’re twenty-one, and I—”
“Are you saying we can’t have sex until I’m twenty-one?” Lucas said, the question coming out in a near shriek.
Erik stared for a moment. Lucas never had outbursts like this and rarely even raised his voice. “No, I’m not saying that at all.”
“I’m not a vampire yet. I’m a human. And I’m eighteen now. I’m not a child anymore.”
“I didn’t say you were. Please calm down.”
“Heather’s only sixteen, yet you’ve made arrangements for her.”
“We’ve arranged a betrothal, not the actual marriage. And she’s a girl, so it’s…” He trailed off when he saw the anger in Lucas’s eyes.
“It’s what? It’s different?”
Erik sighed. “That’s what I was going to say, but I suppose it is unfair.”
“Yes, it certainly is.” He crossed his arms and turned away. “Don’t you love me? Don’t you want me?”
Erik grabbed Lucas by the arm and whirled him around. “You know I love you. I tell you every day.”
“But you don’t touch me. You don’t hold me. You drink from my wrist and ignore the fact that giving you my blood makes both of us hard.”
Erik shook his head. “I don’t ignore it. I simply wanted you to be ready.”
“I offered myself to you the day we met.”
“Because you thought you had to. I’m sorry I haven’t moved fast enough for you. I suppose I got used to controlling myself. I wasn’t thinking of you.”
“Aren’t you attracted to me?”
Erik sank down into a chair and buried his face in his hands. When he glanced up, Lucas looked close to tears. “Of course I am. You’re the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen, and when I drink from you it makes me ache.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“This has gotten out of hand. Look, I’m sorry, all right? You surprised me when you tried to touch me, and I shouldn’t have pulled away.”
“But you did.”
“Will you forgive me?”
“Yes,” Lucas said as he came forward and knelt in front of Erik. “If you’ll take me to bed.”
“I don’t want that to be a condition. I don’t want sex to be something we use to manipulate each other.”
Lucas scowled once more. “Stop treating me like a child!”
Erik frowned at the outburst. “Then stop acting like one. I don’t want fighting to be part of the memory of the first time we make love.”
“Fine. I’ll make sure the memory of my first time has nothing to do with you.”
Lucas bolted up, but Erik seized him by the wrist. “That’s not something to joke about.”
“Who’s joking?” Lucas said as he yanked his wrist away. “You haven’t claimed me. I’m a free man.”
Erik stood up. “You’re mine.”
“Then claim me. Make me yours.”
“Not like this. I won’t take you to prove something. I love you.”
“Those are just words. I need action.” Lucas turned to go again.
Erik thought the threat was idle, yet his blood ran cold at the idea of Lucas sleeping with someone else. He rushed to stand in front of the door. “Then we’ll set a date for our matehood celebration. We’ll take a trip together so it’ll be just us, like a honeymoon. I’ll make love to you as often as you like.”
“Then do it now.”
Erik shook his head. “Not while you’re so angry with me. Not when we’re both upset like this.”
“Then get out of my way.” Lucas shoved him aside and opened the door.
Erik didn’t know what else to do. He slammed the door shut. “No!”
“What’re you going to do, hit me? Go ahead. I can take it.”
The words lanced right to Erik’s heart. “I would never hit you. Never.”
“Then move aside and let me leave. I need some air.”
Erik stepped aside. “Go if you must. I’ll come check on you later.”
Lucas yanked the door open and went out into the hallway. “Don’t bother.” He marched down the hall, never looking back.