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Seeing both of his brothers find happiness with their fated mates has convinced Byron that he can’t simply go on doing nothing. He found his fated mate five years ago, but a tragedy kept him from confessing the truth to Kit. He decides to go back and take a chance, unable to go on living with nothing but dreams of what he could have with his mate.
Kit has lived a quiet, withdrawn life since his parents and brother were murdered, but he’s beginning to wonder what else is out there for him in the world. He’s stunned to learn he’s a vampire’s fated mate, but Byron wins him over quickly with his kindness and patience. Though he isn’t sure he can accept the mate bond yet, Kit sees his chance to explore the world as he learns more about this gentle vampire who has waited five years just to be with him.
Excerpt from Chapter One:
Byron adjusted his bag on his shoulder and hurried toward the stables. As he did so, he glanced around in every direction. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to see his parents, but he had stayed away a long time. Telling Vane he was going to pursue his mate was one thing—his brother would keep it a secret, at least for a time. They understood each other, given how Vane had been forced to be without his mate as well for even longer than Byron had. Byron felt too nervous to go into the subject in depth with anyone. He just wanted to get on the road, to start his journey toward Kit and whatever future lay ahead of them. With his mother close to giving birth, he hadn’t expected them to be traveling at all, let alone to actually be at Vane’s castle. He managed to get his bag secured to his favorite black stallion, Saint, and was just about to mount when he heard a throat being cleared behind him.
“What did you do? Grab a quick bottle of blood and head right back out here?” his mother asked.
Byron turned to look at Evane, noting her crossed arms and the rhythm of her foot tapping in the dirt. “I changed clothes and drank some blood. Cleaned up a bit. I had a brief chat with Arion and Vane, too.”
Evane came closer. “And where are you off to in such a hurry? Not back off with His Majesty, I hope. He’ll wear you out.”
Byron tilted his head to look down into her eyes. “I’m not going back to King Jareth. I only lingered as long as I did because I still had some things to think about.”
“Things, hmmm?” She arched one dark brow at him.
“I daresay you already know, given that look in your eyes.”
She smiled, her expression wistful. “A guess. Seeing Vane and Arion has you thinking about your own mate, I’d wager. If they could work things out, there’s hope for anyone, hmmm?”
Byron nodded, as there was no point in denying the truth. “Yes. I’m going to go tell him he’s my mate. And see what happens.” He shifted his weight and ran one hand through his hair. “I might be back pretty quickly.”
Her smile disappeared. “You fear rejection so much?”
“He’s terrified of vampires. He’s also nineteen and might not like men.”
“That often doesn’t matter with mates. Age or sexual preference are only obstacles if you let them be so. The call of the mate bond is strong, even for humans and shifters.”
“Yeah, but there’s no getting around the other problem.”
“I take it you know why he’s scared of vampires? And you know where he is?” A breeze whipped through the stable, and she tucked a few stands of hair away, her quick movements showing her agitation. “We certainly don’t know any of those things. He might as well live on one of the moons, for all we know about him.”
Guilt stabbed at him. He knew his parents worried out of love. “Maggie’s ward. Kit. Over in Gregor’s dominion.”
Evane hesitated, her brows coming together. “But surely he’s over all of that! That madman wasn’t even a real vampire. Just a lunatic. Gregor has said before that Kit’s friendly with him.”
“He has?” Since Byron had kept his mate’s identity a secret from everyone but Maggie until today, the subject had never come up with Gregor. Byron had avoided it, in fact, as he’d avoided the topic in general with everyone else.
“Yes. I mean, Kit’s not crazy about other vampires, but he’s polite, according to Gregor. At least last I heard.” She fixed him with a stern look, recrossing her arms. “It’s been a while since I asked about him, since I had no clue he was my son’s mate.”
Byron thought about apologizing then, but the gesture seemed empty. “He probably trusts Gregor because he saved him.”
“It’s been several years since that tragedy, Byron. Your chances may be much better than you think at this point. He’s grown up and may feel differently.” She shrugged. “I don’t know. Have you been talking to Maggie? What does she say?”
“We’ve written to each other. She gives me general updates and answers some of my questions.”
“But she doesn’t encourage you? Say anything about your chances?”
Byron shook his head. “No. She’s … I don’t know. Stoic, I guess. She seems to think things will work out if they’re meant to. She says being fated mates is no guarantee of anything. That I shouldn’t force it any more than I should abandon hope.” He tried to smile. “You know, the kind of advice that doesn’t help you at all.”
“What does he look like? Is he a red fox?”
“Yes, he shifts into a red fox. And he has red hair and green eyes. Fair skin. He was tall and thin the last time I saw him. And now he’s nineteen, which is of age for humans.” Vampires were still considered minors until they turned twenty-one, but most humans were considered adults at eighteen, often marrying even earlier than that.
“Was that what you were waiting for, him to turn a certain age? Or are you just telling yourself that?”
Though the comment irritated him, Byron came forward and hugged Evane to him. “Mother, I tell myself a lot of things every day. And it’s driving me crazy.”
Evane wrapped her arms around him, as if sensing his pain and struggle. “I don’t mean to push. I’m just frustrated. Don’t mind my teasing. I didn’t mean to upset you either. I know this must be hard.” She hugged him as close as her swollen stomach would allow. “Tell me what you need. Your father and I will do anything. Your brothers, too. All of us.”
“That’s just it.” He stepped back but kept hold of her hands. “I have to be the one who does this. Not you or Father. Not my brothers or their mates. Or Maggie or Gregor. If I can’t even look Kit in the eye and tell him the truth, how can I hope for anything else?”
“But it’s not always easy. Human or shifter, it doesn’t matter. Anyone who isn’t a vampire might react negatively to being a vampire’s fated mate, especially if he’ll be wary of you biting him. You’ll have to have some plan for approaching him. You can’t just walk up to him and announce it.”
Byron chuckled. “I’ll be so nervous I might not be able to talk at all.”
“Oh, shut up. You’re very charming.”
Byron laughed again. “Did you just tell me to shut up? Been years since you said that to any of us.”
She drew her hands away and reached up to cup his face. “Just go. Quit thinking and start doing. If it doesn’t work out, come home. You’re only thirty-five, and this boy is not your only chance at happiness.”
Byron struggled to believe that, even though he knew many vampires—the king and queen included—were happy with mates they hadn’t been fated to by the gods. He patted his mother’s right hand and turned back to Saint, placing one hand on the saddle horn. “You’ll tell Father?”
“Yes. Once you’ve gotten a bit of a start. Hard to say how he might react.”
“He might be angry.”
“Maybe, but it’s your life. Your mate.” She shrugged one shoulder. “Doesn’t mean everyone isn’t going to have opinions, but that’s all they are. I think he’ll be glad you’re taking action, at least.”
Byron mounted his horse and took the reins. “I’ll write to Vane if there’s anything to report. Will you stay here until the baby comes?”
She braced her back with one hand. “Yes. The very idea of getting on a horse or being tossed around in a carriage makes every inch of me ache. I’m staying here.” She smiled. “Arion’s so sweet. He seems excited about having a little one around.” She blinked, her expression changing a bit. “Did they tell you they set a date for their matehood ceremony? It’s another reason we’re staying. I don’t want to miss it in case the baby is stubborn, the way you were.”
She actually rolled her eyes at him, rubbing her stomach. “You were two weeks late. I thought I would burst. So, yes, stubborn.”
“Not at all. I just loved you so much.” He grinned at her.
She seemed to be holding back a biting retort as she screwed her lips up. Relaxing and giving a shrug, she finally said, “Well, you get back here if you can. It’s on the last day of the month.”
“I’ll do my best.” Byron thought about Vane and Arion and all the craziness they’d gone through to get their happy ending. Things weren’t perfect, he knew, but they seemed to truly love each other. He’d never imagined they would ever be together, or even see each other again, after what had happened when they first met. Finally seeing Vane so happy gave Byron strength, in a strange way.
Above all, it gave him hope.
“Bye, Mother. Maybe I’ll send home good news soon.”
She smiled and moved aside as he guided the horse out of the stable. “You better. We have a bear and a lycan in the family. A fox would round things off nicely.” She nodded down at her belly. “Maybe the gods will hitch this little one up with a leopard.”
Byron slowed as people all turned to look. He nodded to his mother, watching her laugh. Knowing she’d called out so loudly on purpose, he simply sighed and made his way out of the castle grounds. Seeing her so happy helped keep his resentment, and embarrassment, under control. He had bigger things to focus on than his mother continuing to intentionally embarrass him at his age.