Jamie Ryan was almost ready to accept he’d never find his destined mate. They’re uncommon to begin with and same-sex versions downright rare. Since his gay best friend found a destined mate, Jamie figured he was out of luck. Until end of semester stress forces him to go through the full-moon shift early. Stuck in wolf form, he runs into none other than his destined mate. Who’s human.
Chad Sutton has always had good instincts. They served him well as a detective and continued on when he went private. Those instincts tell him there’s something about the dog that comes up to him while running away from animal control that isn’t quite right. He works to put the pieces together, but is unsuccessful until his dog turns into a human before his eyes.
Jamie has no idea what a shifter mate bite will do to a human. He’s terrified to try—and possibly kill his mate. They hunt together for answers while working together on a case for Chad. It’s easy to see they belong together, but Jamie fears the gods gave him someone he can’t keep.
Jamie threw back another shot and set the glass on the bar. It was days like this that made him wish to hell his metabolism wasn’t so damned fast. Thanks to his wolf, there wasn’t much he could do. His body processed alcohol almost as fast as he could drink it.
It didn’t help that he’d been feeling out of sorts the whole day. After his last final, he’d loaded the rest of his things from his dorm room into his car. All through it, he’d felt just… off. He couldn’t wait until he got back out to pack lands and Tanner and Finley’s house. They both insisted he take one of the spare rooms when he wasn’t on campus.
He hadn’t wanted to at first. He wasn’t sure he wanted to sit around and watch Tanner and Finley be loving and physical. It wasn’t so much that he still had feelings for Finley. He didn’t, thank the gods. It was more of a different sort of jealousy. Now that he’d seen what it was to have a mate, he wanted one of his own—badly.
Tanner and Finley had tried to set him up with their friend the pack doctor, Miles. While Jamie could admit Miles was most definitely hot, with his long red hair and lean physique, Miles wasn’t his destined mate. And they got along well enough, but he didn’t even feel the interest with Miles he had with Finley. Luckily for both of them, Miles felt the same. They’d been able to occasionally fuck and be good friends, but that’s as far as it had gone.
Thankfully, Tanner and Finley weren’t as bad as he’d expected. They kept most of their physical stuff to their bedroom, with the occasional touch and kiss in front of him. So going back there for holidays and breaks wasn’t as bad as he’d been afraid it would be.
And now he wanted nothing more than to get on the road and make the hour-and-a-half-in-traffic trip back. His wolf had been prodding him for a while, and he needed to shift and run, let him loose.
Jamie tried to think of the last time he’d shifted outside of the full moon. When he realized he wasn’t sure, it made sense that he was so antsy. He was rather surprised he hadn’t started chasing the mailman down the street or chewing on his roommate’s slippers. Their kind had an unfortunate tendency to display horribly doglike behaviors—in human form—when they didn’t shift often enough. The worst of the side effects included full-blown attention deficit issues.
Considering he was at the tail end of his junior year in college and squeaking through finals, Jamie counted himself lucky he’d managed to keep from any of that.
The prodding was undoubtedly the reason he was feeling out of sorts. His wolf prowled just under the surface, and he wondered if he shouldn’t just tell his friends good-bye and head home.
“Come on, man! You’re being a lightweight tonight,” his roommate, Dwayne, said, shoving another shot at him. “You usually drink all of us under the table.”
“I gotta drive home, dude,” Jamie said. He wasn’t about to explain that it didn’t matter how many shots he had, he could sober up in no time and still drive.
“You can crash on my couch,” Troy offered.
Jamie turned to his other friend and shook his head. “Naw, it’s okay. I guess I can do a couple more.” He picked up another glass and lifted it to his lips, then stopped when he realized the fine hairs on the back of his hand weren’t quite so fine. He blinked, confused, since his vision was still normal.
Right then, the colors faded to grays. Jamie downed the shot quickly and closed his eyes, pretending to struggle to swallow the liquor, trying to fight his wolf back into its place.
Not yet. Just a little longer.
When he opened his eyes, the color was back, but his wolf was even closer to the surface. He glanced at his watch—a digital with the moon phases on it, just in case—but the full moon was still more than two days away. The date didn’t seem to matter, though. Jamie was losing the fight against his wolf, and he needed to get out of there—fast.
“Dude, you okay?” Troy asked, peering at him.
Dwayne was grinning from the other side. “I think he finally had one too many.”
Jamie jumped on the excuse. “Uh, yeah. Something with that last shot. Need some air. Sorry.” With that, he hurried out to the street and took a deep breath. Unfortunately, Forbes Avenue in the heart of Oakland—Pittsburgh’s college district—wasn’t the best place for fresh air. All he got for his trouble was two lungs full of exhaust and a burning nose. He knew better—he’d been fighting the stench of city for most of the last two years—and he cursed himself for doing it anyway.
Shaking his head at himself, he darted past the Dunkin’ Donuts and the door to The O, then around the corner, looking for a quick place to hide. His vision turned gray again, and he struggled to hold his wolf back at least until he could get hidden. He ducked into the alley just beyond the building and let out a breath.
Before he could think of how to handle this, his wolf broke through, and Jamie found himself forced through the shift. His gums itched as his teeth dropped, his claws extended, and fur erupted over his skin. His bones and muscles realigned, and seconds later, he landed on four paws.
He shook himself hard and gave himself just a moment to savor being in his fur again. But this was not the place for him to be in wolf form. He was too far away from Schenley Park, or any other park, for that matter. Never mind the fact that wolves didn’t wander around in city parks. They weren’t even truly native to this region, much less would they be found in a park completely surrounded by city.
He prodded his wolf, trying to nudge him back so he could take his human form again. However, his wolf refused to relinquish control. Jamie struggled, trying to internally reason with his wolf—if he could go back to human, he could get home to the forest and shift for a while. His wolf wouldn’t listen. He was getting truly worried now, when his human side couldn’t pull the lupine side back.
No matter what he did, he couldn’t seem to get control. Huffing, Jamie sat and considered his options, though there were very few. He could keep trying to shift, but he suspected that would be an exercise in futility. He could try to get to his car… except there was no way he could get the door open, even if he could get down the street and through the garage unseen.
He turned to his clothes and nosed through the pile of denim scraps that used to be his jeans. He managed to pull his phone out with his mouth, but the screen wouldn’t recognize the touch of his paw. Not that he knew what he’d do anyway. Call Finley, maybe. But that obviously wasn’t an option.
He looked toward the street but knew that was a bad idea, no matter how much he wanted to get away. Until he was human again, he didn’t dare risk venturing out of the alley. That left the other direction.
Jamie looked down at his clothes, then left them to explore the short distance to the back wall. He found milk crates, a huge trash compactor, the currently raised bottom of a fire escape, a couple of recycling bins, and not much else. A door that presumably led into the kitchen of The O sat in the wall to his right. At the end of the alley, it turned in an L-shape into a tiny parking lot Jamie hadn’t known was there.
It was dark enough no one should be able to see him, so he figured his best bet at this point was find a spot in the corner and wait. Hopefully, after some rest and time in his fur, his wolf would let go and he could get back into his human skin.
He nosed open one of the recycling bins first. It took a couple of trips, but he got his clothes, shoes, watch, phone, and wallet into the bin. Even if they ended up in a dump somewhere, he didn’t want them just lying out on the ground where someone could steal them.
Once he was human again, he could fish them out, but until then at least they were out of sight.
He found a quiet spot under the fire escape and behind the door to settle in. With a sigh, he lay down and rested his head on his paws to wait.