“I…” Mitch swallowed down the bile that had risen in reaction to the image of his mate alone, vulnerable, and trapped by a group of drunk men. Clearing his throat, he did his best to let his own anger and fear go so he could focus on Simon. “I’m glad he was there for you. I think with time, you’ll see he was the rule, not the exception.”
“Maybe,” Simon said, sounding wholly unconvinced. “But Jobe’s not like other shifters.”
“Was he a lone wolf too?”
“Oh no.” Simon shook his head furiously. “Jobe’s the Red River Alpha’s son. He’s way invested in his pack. He actually offered us sanctuary but I’d been down that road far enough to know how it would end so I turned him down. Jobe’s different like me.”
Mitch had heard of the Red River pack, but he didn’t know much about them because they were notoriously insular. Rumor had it their self-imposed isolation was rivaled only by their wealth. The few things he had heard didn’t include information about the Alpha or the Alpha’s family. “He’s an Omega?”
“Not an Omega.” Simon furrowed his brow. “At least I don’t think he’s an Omega. What I mean is he’s different because he has no scent.”
That wasn’t possible. “With everything else going on, you may not have noticed his scent,” Mitch suggested gently.
“I would have noticed,” Simon insisted. “I’m not as focused on senses as you, but I always use them to know if I’m dealing with a shifter or a human. I scented Jobe before I got into his car, and then I sat with him in an enclosed space for twenty minutes. The only reason I know he’s a shifter is because when we pulled up to the campsite, he scented my mother and knew she wasn’t well. That’s when he told me who he was and offered to help.”
In all his thirty-six years, Mitch had never met or even heard of a shifter without a scent, but what mattered more than a possible genetic anomaly in a stranger was that someone had shown his mate kindness. “I’m glad he was there for you. And now you know me and you don’t think I’m dangerous, right? So that’s two shift—”
“You’re kidding, right?” Simon raised his head from its perch on Mitch’s chest and looked up at him wide-eyed. “You’re probably the most dangerous person I’ve ever met!”
Mitch’s jaw dropped in surprise.
“Not to me,” Simon hastily added. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant—” He squeezed his eyes shut and moaned. “Ugh. I insulted you during our date.”
“I’m not insulted.” Mitch chuckled. “You’re right. I’m very dangerous, and you’re my mate. Which means everyone else will know to stay away from you.”
Simon turned his plump lips up in a smile. He opened his eyes, the green twinkling in the light from the television. “Are you going to put a sign around my neck warning them off?”
“Oh, I’m doing better than a sign.” Mitch rubbed his cheek over Simon’s head, the side of his face, and down his neck. “I’m keeping you covered in my scent. Any shifter who gets within sniffing distance will know exactly whose protection you’re under.”
Mitch expected Simon’s usual response that he didn’t need protection or that he was strong enough to take care of himself. But for the first time, he accepted Mitch’s offer without argument, and instead said, “So this date is going okay?”
After adjusting to the welcome change in conversation, Mitch grinned. “We had popcorn, beer, and a loud movie. That’s a perfect date.”
“Even though we haven’t…” Simon closed his eyes again and huffed out a deep breath. “I do realize this isn’t normal, you know. I’m twenty-five years old. I’m living in your house. I notice the way you look at me. I know you see the way my body reacts to you. We should be… I’m sure you expect us to…”
“I don’t expect anything except a chance to earn my place in your life,” Mitch said truthfully. Before he had met Simon, he would have expected something different from a mate or a man who lived with him or even someone he was seeing for longer than a few dates. But that was before. Simon had grown and changed since he’d come into Mitch’s life, but so had Mitch.
Mitch would always be on the periphery of the pack. He was an Alpha wolf who wasn’t their Alpha. He was needed, yet feared. He stood quietly in the background, watching and protecting, but was never truly included. And that role didn’t bother him. He had freely and knowingly chosen to devote his life to protecting his brother and his family. But having Simon in his den fulfilled every part of Mitch. The little shifter who refused to interact with shifters and had taken weeks to warm up to him, had chased away the cold edges in Mitch’s life and made him whole.