Forbes Mates: Book One
Finley Cooper is tired of waiting for his destined mate to be ready to claim him. In deference to human laws, he’s already agreed to wait until he’s eighteen. But now his birthday has come and gone—and his mate has a new set of excuses. Finley doesn’t understand it any more than his wolf does, and he’s beginning to wonder if fate made a mistake.
Tanner Pearce wants nothing more than to claim his mate, but he worries that Finley is too young. Tanner will never forget what happened when his best friend mated at Finley’s age, only to have that mate end up feeling trapped and breaking their bond. While rare, it can happen, and the fallout Tanner witnessed as his best friend tried to deal with the break has haunted him for years.
When Finley finally has enough, he threatens to find someone who will claim him if Tanner doesn’t, and Tanner realizes he needs to come to terms with his fears or risk losing his mate forever.
TANNER STEPPED into the club and moved to the side to let his eyes adjust. Even with his heightened eyesight, going from the bright lights of a city block to the dim room took a little while. When he could see well enough, he shifted his gaze from one group to the next, working slowly around the dance floor and bar. The interior looked to him like every other gay club on the planet.
He resisted the urge to inhale deeply and look for the scent he knew so well. His oversensitive nose was already being bombarded with too much sweat, deodorant, cologne, alcohol, and arousal. No matter how well he knew his recalcitrant mate’s scent, he’d never be able to find it masked by all of that.
He skipped the bar and moved out toward the dance floor. Thankfully, this particular club only had one level. The last two Finley had disappeared to had been the multilevel clubs full of side rooms and lounges.
If I have to do this one more time, I swear I will spank his ass until he can’t sit for a week! Tanner pushed the annoyance away, saving it for when he found Finley. When a hand ran over his ass, he fought the urge to growl, carefully peeled it away, and decided it might take until he got his mate home—to Finley’s parents’ house—before he could reasonably control his temper.
Besides, he couldn’t spank Finley yet. Not for another four years. If he survived another four years, at this rate.
The owner of the hand gave him a beguiling smile, but the wafer-thin, spritelike twink looking up at him held zero appeal. Even if he’d been built like Finley, he wouldn’t be appealing to Tanner. Finley was his mate, the one given to him by Diana, their patron goddess, and the only one he wanted.
“Sorry, not interested,” Tanner grunted and almost felt bad when the smile melted. “I’m sorry, really. Uh, here with my partner.” He didn’t think he could be heard clearly, but the boy gave him a slight smile and nodded before moving on, obviously at least getting the gist.
Tanner turned his attention back to the dance floor. It shouldn’t be this difficult to find Finley, and Tanner’s blood pressure and anger were rising quickly the longer he looked.
Then he spotted black hair and blew out a breath in an effort to cool his ire a little. He gritted his teeth to keep the newfound calm in place as he stalked across the floor, dodging hands and asses, and other body parts. He couldn’t exactly rip the man currently rubbing against his mate limb from limb, no matter how much he wanted to.
His wolf—the other half of his soul—disagreed.
He reminded his wolf he had a human half, and tearing a full human to shreds was a bad thing. His wolf grumbled but curled up, though he still watched from a distance. Mine, he growled in Tanner’s head, and Tanner agreed.
Finley was his. Finley knew it. And these stunts he was pulling were getting old.
He stood in front of the man and crossed his arms. Finley spun around and his green eyes widened in surprise; then he stepped away from his dance partner. The dance partner, Tanner noted, was built much like he was, though with blond hair instead of dark auburn. And was human. Even without drawing a deep breath, he could smell it from there.
Said man reached out toward Finley, but Tanner’s hand shot out and gripped the wrist. “He’s with me,” he growled. It couldn’t have been heard over the music, not by human ears, but the guy obviously got the drift.
One blond eyebrow rose. “Didn’t see you here a moment ago.”
“I’m here now,” Tanner replied, letting go of the man’s wrist and grabbing Finley’s hand. Finley took advantage of it and slid up against him, grinding to the music. Tanner tried—he really did—to hold himself in check. But his wolf was already frustrated with the other guy for touching Finley, and calming him further was nearly impossible. He needed to put his scent back on his mate.
And, well, he was a normal, healthy twenty-four-year-old guy. He could only take so much of Finley rubbing against him before he took advantage of it. He gave in, wrapping his arms around Finley, wedging one leg between Finley’s, and picking up the beat.
Even with his superior hearing, he felt more than heard Finley’s groan of appreciation. Tanner slid his hands down to Finley’s hips, gripping them as they moved. Finley held Tanner’s shoulders to steady himself, but Tanner kept him off balance deliberately, forcing him to lean into Tanner’s body.
He slid one arm back around Finley’s waist and held him close, moaning when Finley’s hard cock rubbed against his through their jeans. With the other hand, he couldn’t resist cupping Finley’s amazing ass. God, Finley felt so fucking good in his arms, against him. He tilted his head, burying his face in Finley’s neck and inhaling the scent deeply. His wolf growled in appreciation, and Finley—and, undoubtedly, Finley’s wolf—echoed it back to him.
One of Finley’s hands found its way into Tanner’s hair, the other cupping Tanner’s face. He leaned in, pulling at Tanner, who couldn’t find it in himself to resist. Their lips met, mouths hot and wet, and Tanner groaned at the taste. Finley slid his tongue into Tanner’s mouth and they fought for domination of the kiss.
Tanner broke the kiss and glanced around. He spotted a quiet corner nearby and danced them to it, then pushed Finley against the wall when they got there. He pinned Finley with his own body, grinding their hard cocks together. He caught Fin’s lips with his again, the kiss hot, wet, and full of so much need he could barely breathe.
Finley’s hands flew over Tanner’s body, cupping his ass and gripping his hair. He rocked into Tanner, meeting his movements. Tanner pulled back from the kiss, his gaze taking in the look of his mate: hair messy, lips wet and kiss-swollen, eyes bled black in arousal, teeth lowered. Tanner’s own vision had gone gray, eyes shifting because of his own need.
Tanner growled again, dove for Finley’s neck, and nipped his way along the skin. It took everything he had to keep his canines out of Finley’s neck. Instead, he sucked the skin in, biting with his human teeth, unable to resist leaving at least a minor mark.
His wolf didn’t like it, was pushing for Tanner to flip their mate over, yank the jeans out of the way, fuck him hard, and bite when he filled Finley’s ass with cum. When he realized he’d stepped back to do just that, he shook his head hard, grabbed Finley’s hand, and pulled. “Let’s get out of here,” he said, not bothering to raise his voice. He knew Finley could hear it quite clearly.
Finley raised his eyebrows in shock. “You’re taking me home?”
“To your parents’ house.”
The shock morphed to anger. “No,” Finley said, pulling his hand out of Tanner’s.
Tanner sighed. “Look. I’ve got a lot of work to do tomorrow. I don’t have time for this tonight.”
Fin shrugged a shoulder. “So go home. I don’t need you here.” He turned on his heel and started back onto the dance floor.
Tanner took a deep breath and immediately regretted it. He wrinkled his nose at the assault and grabbed for Finley again. “I’m not leaving you here. You’re coming with me.”
“Fuck you,” Finley replied too cheerfully and melted back into the crowd.
Tanner silently counted to ten before following. He didn’t even give Finley a chance to argue this time. He yanked Finley back against him, then lifted the man up and over one shoulder. It was a good thing he had the strength he did, because Finley wasn’t a small man. In fact, he only had about two inches and fifty pounds on Finley. He didn’t want to think about how they’d match when Finley finished filling out.
“Tanner!” Finley pounded on his back with both fists, but Tanner ignored it. “Put me down!”
“No.” The dancers parted for him, and his long legs ate up the distance to the door.
“Problem?” one of the bouncers asked, stepping in his way. The guy looked like he came by the muscles honestly—rather than at a gym—but he’d still be no match for preternatural strength.
“Just taking him home. Someone put something in his drink,” Tanner lied smoothly.
The bouncer raised an eyebrow and leaned around Tanner. “He telling the truth?”
Finley didn’t reply at first. “I don’t know. Maybe.”
That was apparently good enough. He stepped back and waved them through. Tanner was relieved Finley at least didn’t make a scene with the bouncer. He knew better than to bring any kind of authority down on them. They’d get out of it, but it’d be a mess and a half in the meantime.
Tanner set Finley down on the sidewalk and immediately swung him around to glare at him. “What the fuck?”
“What?” Finley bit off, crossing his arms.
Tanner realized Finley was furious. He blinked. “What do you mean, what?”
“What do you mean by ‘what the fuck’? It’s not like I can’t come down here if I want.”
“You’re not of age.”
Finley rolled his eyes. “I’m old enough for here. I turned eighteen two months ago, as you are well aware. You were at my fucking party.”
Tanner didn’t growl this time, but he wanted to. “Twenty-one, genius.”
Finley sighed and pointed with his thumb at a sign by the door: Under 21 Night. 18 to 21 Only.
Fuck. Tanner rubbed his face. He didn’t know how he got in, but he let it go and sighed. “Why?”
Tanner scowled. “You know what? No. We’re not doing this. Let’s go.” He grabbed Finley’s wrist, but Finley twisted it out of his grip.
“No. I’m not going home. I’ll get a cab and go somewhere else, since you’ve ruined this place for me tonight.”
“No you are not!” Tanner roared.
Finley simply blinked at him, jaw working as he held in his own fury. Tanner knew the signs. Though Fin was usually a cheerful, easygoing person, he’d been known to get pissed now and again, and Tanner had seen it. “Are you quite through?” he asked, too calmly.
Tanner chose to ignore the fire spitting from Finley’s green eyes. “No. Can we not do this on the street?” He glanced around to see a few other club-goers staring at them.
“Sure. You go home and I’ll get a cab.”
“Do I need to pick you up again?”
This time Finley was the one who growled. He jabbed a finger hard into Tanner’s chest. “No. You’re not going to pick me up. You’re not going to take me home. I can do whatever the fuck I want. I’m an adult. I have permission from my legal shifter guardians. And until you claim me, you can’t do a fucking thing about it.” He stepped around Tanner and stalked away.
Despite his anger, despite his frustration, he couldn’t resist eyeing the smooth grace of Finley’s movements. Just like he couldn’t resist the dance. Every time he was in his mate’s company, his wolf surged forward, the mating instincts kicked in, and he had to wrestle them back into place. His cock, in fact, was still painfully hard.
He sighed and dropped his head. The most frustrating part of it was… Finley was right.
According to shifter law, once he’d claimed Finley—even underage, which shifter law said was twenty-one—Finley became his responsibility. But unless and until he did, Finley still answered to his parents, who Tanner thought were batshit insane.
Because they didn’t see a problem with him claiming their son. They seemed almost as upset by it as Finley was, though not because they wanted to get rid of him or anything. Because they loved him and saw how much Finley was frustrated. Or, at least, that’s what they claimed.
Tanner didn’t understand it. Finley was young—too young. He needed to finish growing, for fuck’s sake, much less finish school, go to college, experience things—nonsexual, thank you very much—before he mated. Never mind that, as the future alpha, there were certain semipublic events that happened when he claimed his mate. Finley was too fucking young for that. So Tanner was doing his damnedest to make sure they waited.
And Finley was doing his damnedest to fight him every step of the way.
He’d never forget the night they met as long as he lived. They’d taken one look at each other and reacted almost violently, both of them partially shifting on the spot. There’d been no question in that moment: Finley was his destined mate. And the first part of their bond had already formed. He was so screwed—or not, in this case, as Finley was much too young for that.
Finding his or her destined mate wasn’t common, much less at that age. Destined mates weren’t exactly rare, but some shifters never managed it. Tanner had assumed, since he was gay, he didn’t have a destined mate. He was, as far as he knew, the first gay shifter in their pack. He was the first out gay shifter, anyway.
He’d listened to the lessons the pack teachers had given them about mates. It was one of the biggest parts of a shifter’s life, finding their mate. There were two types of mates in their world: destined and chosen. A shifter was supposed to be able to recognize a destined mate immediately—their wolves would recognize each other and their scents drove each other crazy. Simply meeting started the bonding process, which was finished through sexual intercourse and biting.
Chosen mates formed a similar bond, but only after the sex and bite. They didn’t have the same recognition as destined mates did, but they were usually still quite happy, their wolves happy, and their bond almost as strong.
His teacher, one of the pack elders, had described the bond like a thick vine made up of many twisted strands. Meeting Finley had connected them by those first strands, and their bond had begun to form already. If either experienced very strong emotion, the other could sense it. Protective and possessive instincts kicked in, and the urge to mate and claim usually happened fast.
Tanner had been fighting it for the last two years. Two years of being around his mate—two years of smelling him, two years of sharing strong emotions—and he still couldn’t claim the man, because he was just barely a man. His wolf thought he was being ridiculous, not that he would think quite that coherently, but Tanner got the message all the same. His wolf wanted their mate, period. He didn’t understand why Tanner was hesitating.
But Tanner thought he had a damned good reason. Tanner had seen the disastrous results first hand of what could happen if two people mated too young, and he wasn’t going to let that happen to them. He sighed, turned on his heel, and followed Finley’s scent around the corner to the small set of stairs he sat on, took the spot next to him, and looked over.
Finley’s anger had obviously died. Tanner couldn’t read the expression on the handsome face, and the emotions weren’t strong enough to sense, but he was certainly not happy. “Why?” Finley asked, for probably the millionth time in two years. And the thousandth in just the last month.
Tanner sighed again, feeling really fucking old, even though he only had six years on Finley. “We’ve been over this, Fin.”
“Yeah, well, maybe if you explain it again, I’ll get something that I didn’t before.”
Tanner shook his head. “Nothing’s changed, Fin. You need to finish growing up. You need to—”
“Go to college, experience things, blah, blah, blah.” Finley shook his head. “First, I am grown up. Second… shouldn’t that be my decision to make?”
While Tanner knew Finley had a point—the same point he’d had for two years—Tanner could all too readily see Finley resenting him for tying them together so soon. To make matters worse, Finley would blame himself because he’d pushed for it. Then he’d feel even worse about the whole thing, and they’d end up in a big mess, if Finley didn’t downright hate Tanner or himself.
“Look, I agreed to wait until eighteen. I got it. As much as we can weasel out of, we can’t get out of everything associated with human law. So, I agreed to wait so no one got arrested for statutory rape. But for fuck’s sake, Tan, I’m over eighteen now.”
And still too young for some of it. He hadn’t been able to bring himself to tell Finley that last part. While it wasn’t the biggest hang-up he had over this, it was still something he didn’t think Finley was ready to go through. He rubbed his face. “Look, I—”
“Never mind. Just take me home,” Finley said, standing up.
Tanner frowned but wasn’t going to argue. He reached out to take Fin’s hand, but Finley stuffed both into his jeans pockets, making it clear the touch wasn’t welcome. Tanner swallowed at the snub and focused on walking. When they got to the car and were settling in, he had to try again. He hated when they fought, which they’d been doing a lot of since Finley had turned eighteen. “Baby, I—”
“Don’t ‘baby’ me. Just drive,” Finley said through a clenched jaw.
Tanner suppressed yet another sigh and started the car.
FINLEY FUMED silently in the passenger seat the whole way back to his parents’ house. He was tired of waiting. Two years of being put off by his mate, the one the fates had chosen for him. Two years of intense sexual frustration—jacking off provided very little relief—knowing who he wanted, who he should have, but not being able to have them. He wasn’t about to go fuck someone else, not when he had a mate—even if he didn’t have the man—but he was tired of not having him, of not having anything.
Two years of watching the one person who wasn’t supposed to be able to walk away from him… walk away from him. Time and time again.
He held on to his anger as long as he could. He wasn’t going to give in to the other stuff until he was in his room, away from his parents and sisters, and Tanner had left again and was far enough away that it wouldn’t transmit over their bond. He’d always bemoaned the distance limitation of it, loving that feeling of connection, however light. But now he was glad for it because he couldn’t let Tanner know how all this was feeling. He couldn’t. He could not let Tanner see how much it hurt to be rejected over and over and over again.
He was beginning to wonder if Tanner really wanted him. He didn’t understand why Tanner couldn’t see that he could get all those experiences and still be mated. That he didn’t want those without Tanner. That he wanted to be with Tanner when he succeeded in school, wanted to see Tanner’s pride in him for doing well.
He knew, eventually, Tanner was going to be alpha, and, as the alpha’s mate, there’d be responsibility to go with that. But Tanner’s father wasn’t anywhere near ready to step down. It would be quite a few years before that was even an issue. As long-lived as they were, Tanner’s father, at forty-two, was still considered young as far as shifters go. They had time for that.
So he couldn’t figure out why. Tanner’s excuses were just that: excuses. The only thing Finley could get from them was that Tanner didn’t really want him and hadn’t figured out how to tell him yet.
Oh, he knew Tanner wanted him physically. The few times he’d managed to get Tanner to kiss and make out, he’d certainly felt Tanner’s response. Like in the club, Tanner was usually as hard as he was. But he couldn’t get so much as a mutual hand job out of the man, much less anything more.
He didn’t understand it. He did get why they waited until he was eighteen before doing anything, even if he didn’t like it. There was no way they could end up in a human jail. Their wolves couldn’t take that kind of captivity, and when they spontaneously shifted from the stress… well, that just wasn’t going to work. So he’d waited, because he knew there was always the chance someone from the human high school he attended could call and even his parents couldn’t get them out of it.
But the waiting was killing him. Especially since he had a lot more invested than his dick. He’d long since fallen in love with his mate, long since added his heart to the mix. And knowing that love wasn’t returned was eating at him.
He’d started his little trips to the clubs right after he’d turned eighteen and Tanner had started giving his new excuses—college, experiences, the whole pile of crap. So Finley had decided he needed to try to push things, provoke something more out of Tanner. He wanted to see if he could get Tanner to do something.
But so far all he’d gotten was the occasional dance, like tonight, and more often, annoyed looks, a lot of sighs, and being dropped back off at his parents’ house while Tanner went home. Alone.
And Finley went to bed to jack off. Again.
He couldn’t even seem to get anything possessive out of Tanner. Tonight, his grabbing the blond guy’s hand had been the first time anything like that had happened. Most of the time, Tanner just grabbed him and dragged him out of the club.
Finley was tired of waiting. He was tired of dancing around this shit. He was tired of being put off. He was eighteen, hadn’t so much as touched another guy’s dick, much less had sex, and he was sick of it.
Most of their kind were mated at this time. He knew some were waiting longer, usually because they went to college and the like. And Finley might have happily gone off to college and taken another four years—if he hadn’t met his destined mate and this hadn’t felt so urgent.
But it did and he was going crazy from it. It was time to force the issue. If Tanner didn’t want him, it was time to find someone who did.
He wanted his destined mate. He wanted the man he was in love with. But he could, and would, sever the bond that they’d started and form one with someone new.
Someone who wanted him.
Maybe it was time for a change of scenery. No one else in their pack was gay, much less interested him. In fact, the only other two teenagers his age had both been jocks in school and very much not someone he hung out with. His grandparents had been hinting that they’d love for him to visit, and his grandmother—who didn’t seem to understand the age thing either—had been going on and on about this new “pup” in their pack who was gay.
When Tanner pulled up in front of Finley’s house, he couldn’t bring himself to say a word. He climbed out, slammed the door, and went in the house without looking back.
He called to his mother to let her know he was home, then took the steps two at a time. Once he was in his bedroom, he stripped to his boxers, curled up on his bed, stared at the ceiling. He listened for Tanner’s car to pull out of the driveway; then he’d give in, let the memory of their meeting fill him as it seemed to do so much these days. And once Tanner was far enough away, he could let the rest of his emotions out.
TANNER WATCHED Finley nearly run into his parents’ house and sighed. He didn’t understand why Finley was so damned impatient. Sure, he had a pretty respectable case of blue balls after two years of keeping his hands off his mate. But Finley was more than worth it.
The man was beautiful and funny and amazing. He could deal with a little—okay, more than a little—sexual frustration to make sure he didn’t rush something with that beautiful man. He could handle blue balls if it meant he could help make sure Finley didn’t end up feeling like he’d made a mistake by mating so young.
Sometimes Tanner wished he hadn’t met Finley two years ago. Sometimes he wished he’d met Finley later so this wouldn’t be such an issue. He couldn’t be that lucky, though, and he’d met Finley when he wasn’t even legally allowed to have sex with an adult in their state.
Tanner bounced his head on the steering wheel, then pulled out of the driveway. He needed to figure out how to fix this with Finley, get them to stop fighting so much. He had a feeling it was going to have to wait until the next day, though. He was already tired, and memories of meeting Finley were too close to the surface.
I do love shifter stories no doubt about it and I was eager to see how Grace wrote her guys! What’s really wonderful about shifter books is when the authors get super creative. You’d think, “How many times can you write the same thing?” Well, a lot of way apparently. I liked the little changes to the norm that Grace made. From the Claiming, to Destined Mates vs Chosen. I loved how Finley and Tanner had to wait… and then waiting became a great idea for one and not the other. There’s genuine struggles that are addressed. The humanity and the animal are 50/50 here. Each equally important and we get a terrific balance in the story. This was a really unique take on the shifter world and I enjoyed it.
Tanner didn’t think he would ever find a mate, so when he stumbled upon Finley during their pack gathering, he was totally stunned… More so when he realized Finley’s age. He was too young to be claimed… at least all of Tanner previous knowledge on the matter said so. The only option in Tanner’s point of view was to wait until his mate could be claimed.
Finley was so not on board with that plan… He couldn’t understand why his fated mate didn’t claim him. In a desperate attempt to clear his mind and try to find a solution for them, he made a decision that could bring them together or separate them for good…
Now their fate is in Tanner’s hands, and in his ability to convince Finley that they really should be together.
3.5 Stars ~ "It was time to force the issue. If Tanner didn’t want him, it was time to find someone who did. He wanted his destined mate. He wanted the man he was in love with. But he could, and would, sever the bond that they’d started and form one with someone new. Someone who wanted him."
The frustrations of youth. I remember them well, and I truly empathized with Finley. Obviously, I don't know what it feels like to be a shifter and have a destined mate, but I could imagine. The internal struggle must be so difficult, having to wait until you can be claimed by the one person on the planet picked for you, and only you, by your goddess, Diana. The problem was, I empathized with Tanner, also, and respected where he was coming from. He is six years older than Finley. When they met, Tanner was twenty-two, and Finley was sixteen. But Tanner still thinks eighteen is too young. He wants Finley to go to college and live a little before being mated. What Tanner doesn't understand, though, is that Finley wants to do those things with his mate. Granted, communication was seriously lacking between these two, at least in the beginning.
It became obvious, very quickly, that I was dealing with one very stubborn and hardheaded man, and an equally stubborn but not quite so hardheaded younger man. This might be the first time I've read a book where the communication between the two main characters is abysmal at best. Men. Ugh. Finley heads across the country to spend time with his grandparents and get a much needed break from the turmoil of Tanner not wanting to claim him. Tanner is devastated, but says nothing to prevent Finley from going. And, even though Tanner's parents think he's made the wrong decision, and Finley's parents won't speak to him, Tanner still has to spend time agonizing over what decision to make.
I was very glad when both men made the right decisions. It was actually rather frustrating watching the back and forth continue for so long, but since the author made up for it in the end, I forgave her. I did find it very amusing that Tanner was just as clueless about dealing with his mate as any man would have been, and I loved watching Finley stand up for himself.
A good beginning to what I hope becomes a great series. I always enjoy shifter stories, and this was no different. I'm looking forward to book two. Thank you, Grace!
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