When Tanner moves to Chicago for a new job, he experiences his First Shift, a revelation that signifies he’s met his mate since the last full moon. The only problem? He doesn't know who it is. To find his mate, he enlists his new assistant Jon to arrange a series of dates, but each one turns out more disastrous than the last.
With the next full moon quickly approaching, Tanner finally determines the identity of his true mate. Unfortunately, Jon has since disappeared, and Tanner must now begin a new search. Is it really Jon’s family crisis pulling him away, or is Jon just not that into him?
HE’D SUSPECTED nine days ago, but he hadn’t dared to hope.
This night, though, with the first full moon since he’d started at Dilarium, confirmed it.
Curled up on his side in the living room of his subleased townhome, Tanner gritted his teeth, his eyes squeezing shut as he felt the irrepressible movement of bones shifting beneath his skin. The silky carpet was cool and soft against his cheek, and he pressed his face into it, struggling with that over which he had absolutely no control. His body was on fire, his blood pumping through his veins at supersonic speed. An invisible spike pierced his fingertips, one by one, while his jaw rearranged itself on his face.
He couldn’t hold back the scream that ripped through him as he felt his spine stretch, then curve, turning him into that one elusive form he’d craved for all of these years: werewolf.
A First Shift was supposed to be the hardest.
The first time bone broke and mended in its transformation into that creature of the night. The first time claws extended, pointed tips puncturing nail beds to replace human fingers. The first time fangs punched out, the teeth of a hunter replacing those of a benign human.
A First Shift was shocking. It was thrilling. It was painful.
Above all, it was exhilarating.
A First Shift meant he had found his mate.
NINE DAYS ago, during a period of not-too-hot and not-too-cold springtime weather, Tanner began working at Dilarium Press on a sunny day in early May. Not long afterward, Chicago would soon be a muggy soup of humidity and heat waves, but for now, it was gorgeous. He’d just moved from Los Angeles and was glad for the respite before the meteorological torture commenced.
The publishing company’s building was small, a late nineteenth-century brick warehouse whose two stories were tucked in between the taller glass and steel towers populating the Loop. After a round of phone and Skype discussions, he’d been convinced by Dilarium to come on as a consultant for six months in their acquisitions department. It wasn’t as though the man who’d discovered Kimberley Donovan, the author-creator of the Isolation series, would ever need to work again, but the opportunity to jumpstart a tiny publisher was attractive, as was the chance to challenge himself.
He stepped through the glass doors and was taken aback when his heart began to pound. Tanner brought a hand to his chest as his breath shortened, and his senses grew acute. There was no way it could be nerves, so….
No, it can’t be.
Shaking his head, he ran a hand over his dark hair. No. He refused to get his hopes up.
“Hi, I’m Tanner Davis, the new consultant in acquisitions,” he told the receptionist, who wore a charcoal gray sweater and chunky green necklace. “They said I should ask for Bryan in HR when I arrived.”
She smiled at him, her hazel eyes friendly behind her trendy black frames. “Of course, Mr. Davis, I’ll let him know. I’m Amber, by the way,” she said, offering her hand to him as she stood. “Welcome to Dilarium.”
“Please, call me Tanner,” he said as he shook her hand.
Even though he’d refused to get his hopes up, Tanner still made note of the physical contact.
THOSE WHO knew said being in proximity of one’s mate would awaken the wolf inside.
It wasn’t that the host had been asleep all this time and would suddenly spring alert. Rather, the presence of one’s mate would cause the wolf to reveal itself like a slumbering feline that had finally found a reason to stretch out of a decades-long nap.
Tanner had heard the stories. His pack had told the tale many times over, and the more his parents and siblings had tried to describe it, the less he knew what to expect.
“Your senses will just… sharpen,” his sister Jade had said with a vague gesture.
“Your subconscious will want to find her… or him,” Neil, their brother, had explained, dark eyes confident as he’d shared a warm look with his mate Gavin, who’d then smiled and placed a hand over his swelling belly.
“You’ll just know,” his father had stated, his gaze affectionate as he shared a look with Tanner’s mother.
He’d heard that for years, from the time his brown eyes had still been too big on his face, and ever since those days he’d only dreamed of growing into his size thirteen shoes. Through puberty, adolescence, and adulthood, he’d heard it, and he’d never understood it.
The Mother was supposed to guide the mate to the wolf and, similarly, the wolf to the mate. The method was cloaked in secrecy, and one of the few things they knew was that it happened when the wolf and mate were ready. His parents had met at eighteen, Jade and Barry at nineteen and twenty, and Neil and Gavin at twenty-one and twenty-three.
When five years passed after he’d reached his own adulthood with nary a sign, Tanner had begun to lose heart. He’d even asked his parents, who had reassured him he was definitely of their blood. With their enhanced lycan senses, they could smell the alpha werewolf inside of him, they’d claimed.
Tanner had felt like he’d been ready for the Mother to guide him since he’d awoken on his eighteenth birthday. Somehow, over time, his attitude had transformed from hopeful to bleak, and now, with just over thirty years under his belt, he’d been resigned to another year of solitude of the soul and meaningless relationships of the body.
But that changed as he made his way through his first day at Dilarium.
Did he dare hope?
Feelings of peace and contentment continued to skate under his skin all day, filling a void he’d never fully acknowledged.
THAT NIGHT, Tanner tossed and turned, afraid to fall asleep. He feared it had all been a mix-up and that tonight nothing would happen. Despite his best efforts, his lids grew heavy.
Visions came to him in flashes.
Densely wooded forest. Streams trickling over fallen trunks. Twilight filtering through a heavy canopy.
A tawny, reddish pelt darting just ahead of him.
He looked down and saw his own paws for the first time: gray with silver-tipped fur, lean and strong.
Glancing up, he sprang into motion as the desire to search for that reddish fur overwhelmed him.
With a start, Tanner awoke.
Such dreams…. They were new to him, and the yearning he’d felt in his bones was completely foreign. The overwhelming desire to chase and catch the elusive wolf ahead of him made him ache—everywhere, he thought, as he tentatively reached for the hard length between his thighs—even now with residual need.
Breathing heavily, Tanner lay back and stared at the plain white ceiling.
He’d been afraid to hope, but now, he dared to dream.
My lucky streak continued with winning a copy of He’s Just Knot That Into You by Nico Jaye. Just when I think there is nothing new to be written about werewolves (or vampires), an author proves me wrong. I loved that Jaye had a person’s first shift only happen when they met their mate, even if they don’t know who it is. I also loved that the mate’s sex was irrelevant, since MPREG is part of this world. The MC Tanner’s dates with potential mate candidates were so funny and reflected much of dating’s reality as an adult, let alone a werewolf. Without giving too much away, I enjoyed the reappearance of a seemingly minor character from the past to provide some drama beyond the difficulties of meeting and mating the right one. Jaye is definitely on my must-read list!
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