“I DESPISE this place, I want you to know that,” Dolf grumbled, barely suppressing a hiss as he drove down yet another aisle hunting for a parking spot. “I must have lost my mind to even attempt to shop after Black Friday. And who was the idiot who laid out these parking lots? They’re not big enough to park a hybrid car in, much less a king cab dually truck. But then, parking this thing inside a city block takes an act of Congress.”
Tal poked Dolf in the ribs. “Stop picking on my truck.”
“Truck, ha. This thing ought to have its own zip code.” Dolf grunted in annoyance when some kid zipped into the spot he’d been eyeing. “Damn kid got my spot.”
“You have truck envy.”
“And I do envy your ass, even as long as we’ve been mated.” Tal winked. “By the way, quit bitching about that kid. You see, we’re not even on the right side.” Tal pointed to the far side of the parking lot. “What we’re going to buy is on that side of the store. I don’t see the point in parking over here, then having to walk a mile to get over there. Unless, of course, you just want to.”
“You want to drive?”
“No point now. We’re here.”
Dolf checked his watch. “I bet by the time we get out of here, it’ll be five o’clock. For someone who absolutely hates driving in rush-hour traffic, you might want to rethink that last comment.”
Tal pouted, lower lip pooched out and eyes sad.
“Oh no, don’t even start with the sad, puppy dog eyes. I mean, really. Puppy dog eyes?”
“You’re so mean.”
“No, sweetheart, mean would be making you ride home with your dick out and unable to touch it while I talk dirty to you.”
Tal shifted in the seat. “If memory serves, you did do that the last time we were here. Thank goodness it was dark and you have tinted windows.”
A pleasant smile crossed Dolf’s face as he revisited the memory of his mate sprawled out in the seat. “Yup, that was a ride home worth remembering. You were begging by the time we got in the drive.” His voice had a little purr as he spoke.
“As I said: mean.”
“Hey, gotta get my kicks somehow when you drag me here.” Dolf blew out a deep breath as he slowly made his way to the other side of the huge discount hardware store. “When we’re done, you want to grab an early dinner?” Dolf scanned the parking lot. “Gods, isn’t there something closer to the front of the store? Did I mention I hate this place?”
“At least once every five minutes, and yes, dinner sounds good. I heard Sam had his grand opening at Arches a few nights ago.”
“What a name. I love it.”
“Isn’t it? I helped finish a few things right before he opened. He took some flak about the name from some of the… well, employees who are—”
“I know what you mean.” Werecats usually lived separately from human society, but still ran businesses that hired humans. Even though they didn’t like to do that. Then Dolf scowled. “Wait, he was having trouble?”
“It was just all in good fun. He just shrugged, said he liked cats, and that’s what cats do—they arch. Want to stop by his new restaurant?”
“Yes, we’ll eat there,” Dolf said. “I hear they have great steaks. Might even have to have a beer or three after this little adventure.”
“I really don’t get why you hate coming here so much.”
“Because every time I step foot in this place, I end up spending hours here. Half the time I’m hunting someone down for assistance. I walk in, and every employee in a five-mile radius disappears.”
“I never have a problem finding someone to help.”
Well, of course Tal didn’t have any problems. Just look at that long, wavy, white-blond hair, those bright blue eyes, and that long, lean, golden, sun-kissed body. Add in the sweet, innocent look and ready smile—and people fell all over themselves to help his sexy mate.
Dolf glanced in the rearview mirror. He had the same bright blue eyes, but his jet-black hair curled loosely at the nape of his neck. Unlike Tal, most cat shifters had dark hair. Smooth, deep-bronzed skin stretched over finely honed muscles. A layer of thick, dark stubble covered his jaw and framed his lips. He was the dark to Tal’s light. And as far as sweet? As head beta of his clowder and the next Alpha, there wasn’t a sweet bone in his body.
“Ah-ah!” Dolf whipped the truck into a parking spot, cackling loudly. “Right in front of the store too. How often does that happen?”
“I swear, is this like a competition—you against the parking lot gods?”
“I’m not that bad.” Dolf shut the truck off.
“Right.” Tal rolled his eyes as he climbed out.
Dolf walked around the front of the truck, waiting for Tal. “Okay, so maybe I am.”
“You are.” Tal eagerly rubbed his hands together as they walked into the store. “Man, I love this place. Okay, you said you wanted to get your dad some sort of tool for his birthday, right? Hand tools are over there.”
Dolf watched Tal stride across the store, following behind. He certainly was no follower, but in here, Tal ruled. Plus, it gave him a chance to admire that fine ass of Tal’s, which could only improve his mood.
“Ta-da. Hand tools!” Tal gestured to shelf upon shelf of tools in all different sizes and lengths. “What did you have in mind?”
“Have in mind?” Dolf stared at the shelves, his sudden good mood gone. “Are you kidding me? There’s like… millions of things here. What does half this stuff do? How many different types of hammers does a guy need to just drive in a nail?”
“It amazes me how the handyman gene skipped you. I thought this stuff was ingrained into the male DNA. You hate hardware stores, hate tools—you don’t have a clue what most of them do or even care. I just don’t get it.”
Dolf lowered his voice. “You questioning my manhood? Huh. I’ll remember that tonight when you’re screaming to come.”
Tal hunched his shoulders and his nose twitched. He discreetly sniffed the air. “Aw, goddess, I can smell your desire. Don’t do that, Dolf. Don’t make me walk around here hard.”
Dolf snickered, really wishing he could drag his mate off to a dark corner. The sweet scent of Tal’s arousal floated to him, making him need. “Then behave.”
“So, help me out here.” Dolf scratched his head. “What do I get the Alph… ah, I mean the man who has everything?” Dolf wanted to smack himself in the head. He rarely slipped and said that word when not around others of his kind. From a very young age, they learned to be cautious around humans.
“Really? How did you miss the clue your dad dropped Sunday while we were having dinner with them? Didn’t you hear him talking about redoing the tile in the kitchen?”
“I did, but I had no idea what he was talking about.” Dolf trusted Tal when it came to tools. After all, that was his business.
“He all but spelled it out for you. You tuned him out when he started talking tools and renovations, didn’t you?” Tal shook his head. “What would you do without me? He wants a tile saw. If you want to spend a little extra money, we can get him one with a stand. But it’s going to cost you.”
Dolf massaged his neck. If Tal said it was going to cost, then it was really going to cost. “How much money?”
“For a good one? Upward of a thousand and over.”
“I didn’t want to spend quite that much.” Dolf scowled at the tools.
“No problem. There are some with stands that are less. Or without stands too. Is that what you want to get him?”
“Yeah, yeah, he’ll use that, won’t he? Especially since he likes the do-it-yourself projects.”
“He also knows he can call me if he needs help.”
“It certainly helps that his son-in-law owns his own construction business.” Dolf thought about it, then made up his mind. “Let’s get that. Uh, where are they?”
“I’ll show you. Come on.” Tal walked beside Dolf. “While we’re here, you want to get a new commode kit for your mom’s master bath? She’s been on your dad to fix that.”
“I know.” Dolf cut his eyes at an older man who was staring at Tal. He narrowed his eyes, a warning to the human. The other man looked away. Tal, Dolf noticed, didn’t catch the byplay. He never did. “I guess we can get that since we’re here. That’ll save Dad a trip into town.”
“The saws are on another aisle. Let’s get that picked out, and then we can get the commode kit.”
Dolf picked out the saw he wanted, then followed Tal to another aisle. His mate pointed out the different kinds, but Tal’s words had rapidly faded into a meaningless buzz. There, on the air currents in the store, was the sweetest scent. It was light and flowery, reminding him of honeysuckle. He breathed deeply, taking the scent into himself. His cock hardened immediately and his head spun. A yowl threatened to escape.
That scent… that scent was seductive and alluring. It spoke to him, whispering things that made him need. His cat paced frantically in his mind, tail slashing madly. The need to pounce, to sink his canines in and drink that sweet, life-giving blood of his…. His gums tingled and saliva flooded his mouth.
He swallowed, then swallowed again as his head pounded, his heart rate spiking as one thought screamed through his mind: Mate! Another mate! Where was that scent coming from? Or who? And by the goddess, why? He already had a mate. What was their goddess thinking, giving him another? But he couldn’t ignore the reaction. It had been the same when he met Tal.
A quick glance down the aisle showed a fairly tall, forty-something human male who had a few strands of white in his short brown hair. He was muttering at commode kits. Dolf wanted to roll his eyes. Commode kits? Really? The same thing they were looking for? Their goddess must be having a high old time with this.
“Fuck,” he whispered softly. He rarely cussed, except when aroused. Nothing sent his mate whimpering faster than Dolf describing in frank detail how he planned to fuck Tal. He loved hearing Tal’s voice begging… and speaking of that, only then did he notice Tal had stopped talking. Not only had Tal stopped talking, but now he was growling. It was low, but it was a growl, a sound no human would make.
“Tal,” Dolf whispered. “Look at me, mate.”
Tal’s fists clenched, spasms shaking his arms. “That scent….”
“I know. Look at me. You’re growling, and you can’t do that here. Talise!” Dolf’s voice dropped as he snapped out Tal’s full name, power and command flowing from him. His mate was close to losing control right there in a hardware warehouse. “Stop. Now.”
Tal shuddered hard but stopped growling, his muscles relaxing. “What, what…. Dolfoon?” Tal resorted to using Dolf’s full name. He was still shaking. “Help me. I-I… that scent. How can I be smelling a-a mate scent? I’m already mated… to-to you! Are you scenting it too?”
“Yes.” Dolf spoke very quietly, too quietly for the human to hear. In his mind, his cat paced and demanded he claim what was theirs. First things first: he had to make sure Tal was in control. Dolf grabbed Tal by the arm and quickly walked the both of them out of the aisle, away from the human whose scent was driving both of them crazy. “I need you to breathe. In. And out. Yes, yes, good. There you go, Tal. Breathe with me. In… and out. Better?”
“You have control?”
Tal shuddered one last time. “Yes, I do.”
“Good. That was too close.”
Tal’s mouth fell open, the horror of what he had nearly done reflecting in his face. “Oh my… I almost… and here, of all places! I’m so sorry, Dolf.”
“It’s okay. I talked you down. Can you stay in control so we can go back to that aisle?”
“I can. I’m steady now.” Tal followed Dolf. “It’s just…. That scent surprised me. The last time I smelled something like that was—”
“When we met, yes, I know.” Dolf stopped at the mouth of the aisle. The human was still there. “That human is our mate, Tal.”
Thanks to advanced technology, the shifter community had figured out humans who had a recessive gene could be mates. That gene mutated during the blood transfer between humans and shifters, allowing humans to develop a few shifter abilities, such as rapid healing and lifespan expansion. This way, the human mate lived as long as the shifters.
“What is our goddess thinking?” Tal discreetly glanced at the male. “A threesome? I know that’s uncommon—”
“Uncommon, but not unheard of. There are other instances of this. Forget the stuff we picked out for now,” Dolf said. “We need to stay close to him, see what he drives—get a license plate number—and follow him home. We need to know where he lives. The more starting information we have, the easier it’ll be to do searches on him.”
They kept an eye on the human as he checked out. Careful not to draw attention, they followed him to an old beat-up truck. After a couple of tries, the human got the truck started, and they followed him home.
Dolf drove on by as the truck they were following turned onto a gravel driveway. “Try to see if there’s a name on the mailbox. It’s interesting—he’s quite a distance from town. Must like the country.”
“He’s really far off the road too.” Tal watched the other truck for as long as he could. “Last name is Wells.” Tal turned to look at Dolf. “Okay, now what?”
“Now, we go talk to our Alpha.” Dolf turned around. “There are going to be questions about us a taking a third, and a human one at that. We’re going to need permission, and that takes time.”
Tal bit his bottom lip. “Yeah.”
“Let’s go back and get the stuff we didn’t get for my dad, then go eat. It’s going to be a long night.”
“Another mate for us, Dolf. I never dreamed—”
“Neither did I. But no matter, he’s ours, and we will claim him.”