I felt Jordan give a small start under me, then his hands began to rub my back in slow, gentle circles.

"I-" he began, then his voice caught a bit. I looked up at him, expecting to see pity coat his face, but instead, I saw pain. "I lost my mother three months ago." He admitted, hurt flashing deep in his eyes.

I rested my head back on his chest, and wrapped my arms tighter around him. I knew what most would say. The "I'm so sorry's" got really old after a few times and only seemed to deepen the hurt. Instead, I just nodded, and held him.

We sat like that for several long minutes, before he finally spoke. "That's why we were at the bar tonight—Paige and I. She was trying to get me to go out again, and I figured a beer to numb the pain wouldn't hurt. I just didn't expect to find you there."

The way he said it piqued my interest. There was something about the way he said "you" as though I was a rarity, something important or exquisite. It sent shivers down my spine.

"I'm sorry you got stuck taking care of me." I muttered, blushing.

His fingers made their way under my chin, forcing me to look into his eyes. They had suddenly taken on a deep blue shade, and I shivered at their intensity. "I'm not," he murmured.

I swallowed hard, unable to look away from him. He leaned towards me, our lips a fraction of a space apart, before he suddenly leapt up, toppling me from his lap.

I swear to god I heard him growl as I looked at him, bewildered. What the fuck? His eyes, though, were not on me. They were locked on the door, which was opening.

A man stepped through, arms raised, as though surrendering. "Jordan, it's just me, calm the fuck down," he called, a slight smirk on his face. Something about this man instantly put me at ease, and I found a smile collecting on my face.

"Luke," Jordan hissed out through gritted teeth. "What do you need?"

"Tyler sent me to come check on the girl, man. It's fine. I can come back later." He kept his hands up in a calming position.

Jordan gave Luke a curt nod, waiting for Luke to leave before he finally relaxed somewhat and came to sit next to me on the couch.

"What the hell was that?" I asked. It came out a bit sharper than I had intended it to, but in all honesty, my tone felt justified. He had just flipped me off of his lap, nearly bitten of the head of some man who'd just walked into the room, and now seemed like he was going to act as though none of that had happened.

In spite of my anger, I found myself leaning towards him. His smell of cinnamon was soothing and I was inextricably drawn to it.

Jordan sighed, running his hand through his hair, as I'd found he was apt to do. "I-it's hard to explain. I just need you to trust me right now."

"Jordan, I don't even know you. We only met today and that was for like four minutes at a bar when I was pretty far gone," I reminded him.

He pursed his lips and gave me a terse nod. "I know. I just—" he cut off, seemingly unable to finish his sentence. He blew the breath out of his mouth, his lips pulling down into a frown. I waited for him to continue.

He hesitated for a moment, then blinked at me. "You smell like peppermint," he commented, seemingly out of nowhere.

For no reason, a blush rose to my cheeks. He studied me intently, his eyes following the blush as it colored my cheeks. "I do?" I asked quietly.

"You do. It reminds me of home," he said the last part so softly that I almost didn't catch it. I cocked my head at him, silently questioning it. "Peppermint is—was a big deal with me and my mom," he continued. "We would always make peppermint hot chocolate when it rained. We would sit together on the patio and just watch the rain come down in sheets."

His eyes got a far-off look, and I felt compelled to take his hand and squeeze it. "I trust you," I said softly, and blushed as his eyes filled with happiness when he looked back at me.

"Thank you. I know things are probably confusing right now."

I nodded. Things were definitely confusing. It felt like there was a lot going on that I didn't understand, but at the same time, I felt unexplainably calm. The fact that my anxiety wasn't off the charts was a red flag in and of itself, but even though I knew I should feel anxious, I couldn't help but relax into Jordan's presence.

Jordan checked the watch on his arm, a slight frown crossing his face. "It's still pretty early in the morning, and you're still recovering from hitting your head. Do you think you could sleep for another hour or two while I go talk to my—to someone?" He asked,

The thought of him leaving filled me with a sudden, strange panic. I swallowed it down, though my panic continued to build. He seemed to understand immediately. "I'll stay until you fall back asleep, little one," he soothed.

I nodded, calming. There was something about his voice, about his smell, that just instantly put me at ease. I found my eyes drifting close and I relaxed against the arm rest behind me. I was out in a matter of minutes, calmed through Jordan's presence until I was completely asleep.


When I woke again, sunlight was streaming through the windows. I stretched luxuriously out on the couch, a large yawn taking over my mouth. I sighed softly, nestling back into the warmth of the couch for a few lingering moments, then glanced around.

Seated on the couch across from me was Jordan and a large man I had never met. His presence skyrocketed my nerves, and I clutched the blanket closer to my chest, embarrassed to have been caught waking up. There's something about sleeping in front of someone that feels surprisingly intimate.

The man cleared his throat in a deep rumble, his black eyes tightening as I hunched back into the couch. I pulled my eyes away from him, seeking comfort in the blue depth of Jordan's kind eyes. Just seeing him calmed me, which felt very odd. As though he could read my mind, Jordan made a move to come sit next to me.

His move, though, was cut short from a sharp, "No," from the man on the couch. Instantly, Jordan fell back into his seat next to the man, a pained look on his face. He swallowed hard, his hand running nervously through his hair as it often did.

The man then turned his dark eyes to me, eying me from top to bottom. I shivered under the weight of his gaze, suddenly very afraid. There was something about this man that oozed power and authority. "Emma, my name is James," he began.

I nodded slightly. The name fit him, and somehow seemed appropriate. "I—it is not typical for a member of our—family to bring someone to our home." James commented, lacing his hands together and leaning forward.

"I'm sorry to have caused any trouble, sir," I began. "I can leave immediately." As though to prove it, I stood up and looked around, ready to collect my things and leave.

"Sit." James ordered, his tone not brokering any space for negotiation. I sat.

James looked at me, his eyes dark with thought, then took a deep breath. "Emma, what we are going to talk about—well, suffice it to say that our family is a very private family. I need your reassurance that you will not speak to others about what I tell you here today."

I swallowed hard. I understood privacy, but something about the tone of his voice conveyed a greater urgency than mere privacy. In spite of my nerves, I found myself nodding. Something about Jordan's presence in the room made me feel more confident than I truly was.

James eyed me for a few more moments, before blowing out a deep breath. "There is no easy way to say this, so I will simply say it. Our family is a pack of werewolves."

I paused for a moment as the sentence sunk in, then cracked a smile. James and Jordan did not. They're good at this I thought to myself, releasing a small giggle. Jordan flinched at the sound.

Slowly, my giggle faded and a heavy weight of anxiety rested over me. "I-I'm sorry?" I said, my confusion and nerves clearly evident.

"Emma, I understand your hesitance to believe us. We've given you no reason to believe us. Our existence is kept secret from humans in order to protect us. I'm sure you understand the extreme importance of your discretion in this matter even more now." James' comment was laced with authority, and I nodded, still unsure.

"So you—werewolves?" I asked, unable to form a real sentence.

James nodded as Jordan spoke. "I can change and show you, if it will help you believe us."

I nodded. This was the make or break moment, and I couldn't believe that it was actually coming to this. The whole thing still felt impossibly surreal.

Jordan stood and pulled off his shirt, and I couldn't help the widening of my eyes as I took in his bare chest. There was a fine layer of hair and his skin seemed impossibly smooth. His stomach was toned, though not overly so, and I longed to pull him to me and revel in his warmth. His eyes met mine and a light smile touched his lips, as though he understood what I was thinking.

He began to undo the belt that held up his jeans, and I gasped, quickly lowering my eyes. I wasn't a prude, per se, though I had never seen a man naked before. I'd had so many priorities other than a relationship—school, work, family. Being with a man, especially when I knew I didn't have the time to devote to creating a long-term relationship, was never something high on my list. I always figured I'd have more time for it later.

I was ripped from my thoughts as I heard Jordan unzip his pants and pull them to the ground. I couldn't help but sneak a peek through my lashes and my mouth dropped at the site. He was utterly gorgeous. A low warmth began to spread through my lower stomach and into my crotch, and I tore my eyes away from him and swallowed hard. This is no time for thoughts like that, I scolded myself.

There was a strange, somewhat indescribable sound in the room, almost like the tearing of fabric but somewhat heavier than that. I looked up and an enormous, wolf-like creature was suddenly before me.

I let out a small shriek and sunk back into the couch, pulling my knees up around me. It took me several shaky breaths to finally collect myself, and the creature let out a small whine, padding its feet closer to me.

As he came closer, a calmness fell over me, and I lowered my feet to the ground. "J-Jordan?" I asked, still somewhat timid.

The creature nodded its large head, and let out a soft huff. He padded closer to me, resting his enormous head on my knee, and I tentatively ran a hand through his russet colored fur. His eyes maintained their beautiful blue color, and I let out a small smile.

Jordan let out another whine, pacing somewhat, his head turning back to James. I could sense something taking place between the two of them, though I wasn't sure what or how. Jordan continued to whine, letting out small barks here and there. He stayed close to me throughout, his warm body pressing up against my legs.

Without warning, Jordan leaped up onto the couch next to me, and I let out a surprised yelp. He turned and laid down, his front paws and head laying on my lap. As he laid, the familiar smell of cinnamon filled my nose, and I soothingly stroked his fur as he continued his silent conversation with James.

Finally, James let out a breath, and spoke. "Well, Emma, I have to say you're taking this incredibly well—far better than I would have expected."

I nodded, my fingers tracing patterns on Jordan's back. "I- I can't really explain why I'm not freaking out. You're right. I definitely should be. But, for some odd reason, I just feel very... calm." I said, looking down at Jordan with a small smile. His blue eyes looked back up at me, and he let out a small huff.

James appeared thoughtful, letting out a small sigh. "I should really let Jordan explain this to you," he said, worry lines creasing his forehead. "Jordan, you should shift back. I think you have some explaining to do to your Emma."

Jordan hopped down from the couch and trotted away, and I felt a strange sadness fall over me. A pit formed in my stomach, and I had a hard time swallowing it down. A few minutes later, Jordan came back, shirtless but doing up his belt on his jeans. He was back to his handsome human self, and I couldn't help the smile that crossed my face or the slight flutter of my heart when I saw him. My eyes lingered on his exposed chest for a fraction too long, and I caught his amused smile when we finally locked eyes.

He came and sat next to me, his hand resting on my leg and starting to trace patterns on my jeans as I had in his fur. The thought was both very strange and very pleasing, and the warmth in my belly grew. I bit my lip slightly, knowing I needed to concentrate.

Jordan looked at James, who nodded. Jordan then turned to me fully, taking my hands in his. "Emma—" he began.

"Werewolves are... different from humans. In many ways. It's hard to explain it all because, well, I grew up in my pack. I was never a human, you know?" Jordan's brows furrowed, and I gave his hands a light squeeze, encouraging him to continue.

"Aside from us being able to turn into werewolves, there are a bunch of other differences. We heal faster, we eat more, we live longer, we are naturally stronger. But the biggest difference is—mating." The word sent a pulse through me, and we both swallowed hard.

"Mating?" I whispered, urging him to continue. There was a deep-seated need in me to understand.

He nodded. "Werewolves have mates. They are destined for us, destined to be ours from the day we are born. Some werewolves wait decades or more to meet their mate. That's why we bring the packs together to mingle so often—so people can hopefully meet their mate. It is a joyous occasion when anyone does. It's..." Jordan locked eyes with me. "It is the most incredible, indescribable feeling when you do." His voice became softer, and his eyes glinted.

He paused for a moment, then continued. "Most werewolves find their mates in other packs. That's pretty common, actually. What's less common is... finding a human mate."

Jordan paused, and I was hit with a deep realization.

"Me?" I stuttered.

Jordan squeezed my hands. "I knew the moment I smelled you in that bar. Peppermint. It was like coming home. My wolf was howling to get let out to claim you, but I knew I couldn't. You seemed so sad, so hurt. I knew I had to give you your space. But then I started getting worried. I needed to take care of you. I was just going to follow you home, but then you fell, and I was so terrified that you, my little one, were hurt. I brought you to the pack lands. I had to know you were okay."

My heart was racing, and even as my nerves shot higher, I moved closer to Jordan. There was something about him that just drew me to him. "I— you smell like cinnamon," I whispered, blushing.

Jordan beamed down at me, and suddenly I was in his lap and wrapped up in his arms. I took a deep breath in through my nose, his rich smell filling my nostrils, and sighed happily. It seemed impossible that I could this content, this safe, this cherished with a man—werewolf—whom I had only just met.

It wasn't until James cleared his throat that I remembered he was there. I pulled away from Jordan, who growled low and pulled me back into his warmth.

"Emma, I need you to understand. A human mate is—it's truly quite rare in our species. It is said that the mating pull for the wolf is far stronger than that of a typical mating pair. Jordan won't be able to tolerate you being around unmated males until he has been able to claim you." James told me, his voice matter of fact.

"Claim me?" I asked, frowning.

I felt Jordan rumbling under me. The thought seemed to please him, and I felt his lips press against my neck. The feeling sent a delicious shiver through me, and I bared my neck to him, giving him better access. Jordan growled, nipping lightly at my neck, and I let out a soft moan.

James cleared his throat, and I pulled back from Jordan with a start. "Yes, Emma. Claim you. He will need to bite you and fuck you at the same time."

The thought sent a wave of arousal through me, but my shyness warred with the arousal. Jordan would be my first.

James continued. "But it's not as... simple as that. As he claims you, Jordan will also pass the wolf gene to you. You will become one of us, a member of the pack. You will be unable to return to your previous job, your apartment, your friends, your life. You will be a part of our pack, Jordan's mate."

I swallowed hard, and my arousal dampened quickly. Jordan rubbed his hands up and down my arms in a soothing motion, but I pulled away, swallowing hard.

"I don't—I can't—" I stuttered, standing up and backing away from the pair of them. Jordan growled low in his chest, and I couldn't help the wave of arousal that washed over me.

He came to stand next to me, pulling me into his arms. I began to cry, two halves of myself at war. The half that needed my life, and the half that desperately needed this man whom I had just met.

Jordan moved me back to sit at the couch, and I pulled my knees up to my chest, wrapping my hands around them and resting my forehead against my knees. "Why me?" I whispered.

Jordan's hand traced circles on my back, soothing me. "Don't you feel it too?" he murmured.

I looked up at him through my damp eyelashes, hesitantly nodding. He continued, "When I saw you at that bar, it was like coming home for the holidays. I haven't felt so whole since my mom passed, and I didn't think I would ever feel that way again. But just seeing you there, looking at you, it was like I was home. My heart felt full and warm. Everything finally felt right." Jordan chuckled a bit. "It's a Christmas miracle."

I smiled a little, nodding. "After my parents died—" my words caught in my throat, and I took a deep breath. "Well, it felt like I had nothing left. I never had any siblings. I've been so caught up in my job that I've never really had time for a relationship. Hell, it wasn't even a job I cared about. I've always wanted to be a writer but my dad thought I should go to school for accounting as a stable back-up plan. Now it's been years, and all I have to show for it is two dead parents and a half-written book that I just can't seem to find the time to finish." I sighed hard.

James cleared his throat again, and I was startled to find that he was still there. "Emma, what you decide is up to you. I won't force your hand either way. I just need you to know the reality of your decision. You can't have both lives. You either chose your old life, and cut off all ties to Jordan and the pack, or you pick us, and cut off all ties to your old life."

I nodded my understanding, and then looked at Jordan. His blue eyes were tense with worry, and I realized that I would do anything I could to calm that worry. The feelings I felt for him were completely unexplainable, but they were my feelings nonetheless. We could figure out the logistics of it all later.

"I choose you," I whispered, my eyes locked on Jordan's.

Before I knew what was happening, I was in Jordan's lap and his mouth was devouring my own. I moaned into the kiss, and his tongue snaked into my mouth, exploring each nook and cranny at a maddeningly slow pace.

I heard a door open and close in the back of my mind, and realized that James must be giving us some privacy. I could only passingly be grateful for that before my arousal forced my attention to be directed to the man—werewolf—here with me now. My mate.

The thought filled me with a deep urgency, and I found my arms wrapping around him, pulling him closer. Jordan stood, holding me in his arms, never breaking the kiss. My arms wrapped around his neck, holding on, as he carried me away from the couch and down the hall.

I continued to kiss him as he laid me back on a soft bed, deepening our connection as he pressed me down. I groaned loudly, and heard the resulting growl from him as he pulled my bottom lip into his mouth.

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