Matters of His Heart
Love has no limits when it comes to matters of his heart.
After a tragic moment in his childhood, Quintus and his family move to Vale Valley. Years later, with a thriving construction business, he is surrounded by family and friends. Things are almost perfect for Quintus. All except for one thing: he craves a mate and cubs of his own, but he can’t find the ideal alpha to help him build a family. No one that is, until he is drawn to a sexy vampire who brings out the dark, sexual cravings Quintus never dreamed of before.
After his lover dies, Scott moves to Vale Valley looking for a reason to live again. With his thriving psychiatric practice, his popular band, and a community that depends on him, Scott thinks this is the best he can hope for. After years of living alone, he is caught off guard when he finds himself attracted to a certain sexy, omega contractor.
With Quintus falling in love for the first time, and Scott reluctantly experiencing a new awakening of his long-dormant heart, the pair must figure out their places in each other’s lives while navigating the trials of a new relationship. Add in messy family drama, and secrets galore— it all might be more trouble than either man bargained for.
Matters of His Heart is the eighteenth book in Vale Valley Series Season Three. Dive back into the sweet little town where anything magical can happen.
Quintus sat up in bed, gasping for breath. He was afraid to close his eyes in case the memories of his dream came back to haunt him.
Fuck, why am I dreaming about that night?
Quintus thought he’d put that moment in time behind him. He looked down at his shaking hands, the memory of holding the gun and pulling the trigger came back to him. He closed his hands in a tight fist, clenching his fingers, almost piercing his flesh, hoping the pain would stop the shaking and push the memory away.
He didn’t need to be thinking about that night. He always woke up at the very moment the gun went off. Quintus knew there were parts of what happened that night he couldn’t remember. He knew he didn’t have a choice, but it shouldn’t have been a decision he had to make while being so young.
He fell back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. Come on, Quin. Stop thinking about it. You’re fine, and so is everyone you care about. He’s dead, and he’s not coming back. He kept repeating the words until his heart stopped thumping loudly in his chest. The past is in the past. He wrapped the covers around himself—the same way Vale Valley had the night he, his mother, and sisters entered the small town.
Quintus was seven years old when his entire world changed. Now at twenty-six his life was for the better. He couldn’t understand why he was dreaming about that night. After a few minutes, when he started feeling calm, Quintus reached over and picked up his cellphone, switching off the alarm that would have gone off in a little over twenty minutes.
“I might as well get up. Donald will be here for our morning run in a few.”
Putting his phone down, he rolled out of bed and grabbed his sweatpants, putting them on. Walking into the bathroom, Quintus took care of his morning duties before heading down to his kitchen to make his protein shake, adding a bit of Irish moss to the mix. Donald couldn’t understand why he’d drink anything in the seaweed family in the mornings, but Quintus liked the added nutrients he got from it, even though they were shifters and were hard to kill.
Quintus had met Donald when he’d gone to do an estimate to remodel the house he’d bought. There wasn’t any instant attraction between them. He and Donald had started talking and found out, other than having Grayson in common, they also melded on other things.
Truthfully, Quintus hadn’t thought he and Donald would have become such good friends with their backgrounds. Donald came from a family of wealth, and everything had been handed to him on a silver platter. Quintus, on the other hand, had to struggle to try and find a place in the world. But that was before he and his family moved to Vale Valley. The small little town was hidden deep in Pennsylvania, invisible to those unable to see and feel its magic. Vale Valley opened her arms to him and his family, giving them a place to belong.
Even at a young age, he could tell Vale Valley was unique. Quintus closed his eyes, trying to block out the memory of what had forced them to run from their home in the middle of the night. They’d never heard of Vale Valley. But Quintus remembered that night vividly. He remembered his mother had been driving on a dark road, and out of nowhere the Vale Valley sign had appeared in front of them. Truthfully, they were only supposed to have stayed for one night, but ended up making and starting a new life in the small town.
Quintus had started attending Vale Valley elementary school and became friends with Grayson Vale, excelling in all of his classes. Once he got to high school, Quintus knew he’d found his calling after his first shop class. He’d been able to let his imagination run wild, and thankful for his teacher. Miss Austin would encourage him and others to not let the limitation of their classroom hold them back. He had later used that same drive and attended Vale University—majoring in carpentry.
During the summer months Quintus worked for Gabriel Wolfe, who owned the only construction company in Vale Valley. Gabriel had later gotten married to his mother and adopted him and his sisters. When Gabriel retired, he turned the company over to Quintus who’d gone back to college a few years later and earned his master’s in business.
Quintus and Gabriel were close, and he’d been happy to walk his mom down the aisle, giving her hand in marriage to the man who treated him like a son and his sisters like his daughters. Gabriel still stopped by the office, but most days he could be found behind the counter of Bella’s Diner. Other than her family, it was one of his mom’s pride and joys.
Setting his empty cup in the sink, Quintus leaned against the counter looking out his window at the vast land that belonged to him. He’d bought the property a few years back and started building his house, which still wasn’t finished. He could ask the guys that worked for him for help, but he wanted to do this project on his own—no matter how long it took. Whenever he found time in his schedule, Quintus would putter on his home.
There was a quick knock on his back door before it opened, and Donald stepped into view.
“Hey, you’re up early,” Donald said, walking over to his Keurig to make his first cup of coffee. “That’s what...like the third time this week?”
“I never knew you paid attention to my sleeping patterns,” Quintus said to his friend.
Donald had initially shown up in Vale Valley to win Grayson back, but by that time the man had already been head over heels in love with Chance Knight—the current mayor. In Quintus’s opinion, Donald only used Grayson as a front and was searching for something else. He’d yet to ask his friend about it, and didn’t feel he had a right to do it when he was hiding secrets of his own.
“I pay attention to everything,” Donald said, walking over to him and kissing him on the side of his head.
Quintus soaked up the affection. As a cheetah shifter, he craved affection and loved to cuddle with his friends and family.
Donald stepped back and peered into his face. “You look like shit, dude. You have bags under your eyes, and your hair is a mess.”
“You’re filled with compliments this morning, aren’t you?”
Donald shrugged a shoulder. “I call ’em, as I see ’em.” His brows creased together with worry. “Are you sure you’re okay? I’m asking out of concern.”
“I know. And yeah, I am. I’ve just been working late, that’s all,” He lied.
“Tell me something I would believe,” Donald said, not buying it.
“Did you come here to interrogate me or run?”
“What if my answer is both?”
“Then you’ll just have to settle for one. Nothing is going on with me.”
“If you say so,” he said, putting his mug down in the sink. “All right, let’s go.”
They headed outside and undressed, setting their clothes down on the bench for when they got back. Quintus loved the feeling of shifting from man to animal. He closed his eyes and relaxed his muscles, letting the magic take over. Within a second, he was in cheetah form.
Without waiting for Donald, he took off into the forest—letting his legs carry him to their destination. Running in his cheetah always relaxed him, and at times, it seemed his worries were lifted off his shoulders the faster he ran.
With each pound of his paws against the dewy, morning grass, he lost himself to the sounds of the steady rhythm. The feel of the breeze whistling past his ears, and coursing over his fur. Quintus closed his eyes and let his senses take over. He knew the terrain of the forest having done the run countless of times.
Whenever he ran in his shifted form, he felt one with nature and wished he could stay in his cheetah form all the time, but knew it was a bad idea. Sooner or later, his mind would no longer be human, and he wouldn’t be able to even recognize anyone who meant a lot to him. But it didn’t stop Quintus from staying in his cheetah form as long as possible.
Other than having the recurring dreams lately, he’d been wondering if he would ever find his mate. Quintus wasn’t sure if his mate was already in Vale Valley or if they would be showing up soon, but someone was calling out to him. He could feel his cheetah searching for its alpha mate to claim him—and its need to start a family.
It would have been great of Donald was his mate. They connected on so many levels, but they were nothing more than close friends. Other than Donald being a beta wolf, it seemed as if his friend had an invisible barrier around him that screamed “don’t touch.”
Quintus wasn’t sure if he could handle having a mate and cubs in his life at the moment. He loved children, but he was more bothered because of the dreams he was having. He hoped to the gods it was simply a passing moment in time, and soon things would get back to normal.
His Cherokee ancestors would say they were premonitions of things to come. Quintus wasn’t sure if it was good or bad he remembered what happened in the past, and wondered if he should speak to his mother about his dreams. She was more connected to her Native American values and beliefs than he was.
Elizabella believed dreams were a way to reveal what was to come—good or bad. Other than his mother, the only other person who knew what happened that night was Rosemary Vale. Arianna and Miya, his sisters, had been just babies, and he was thankful they knew nothing about what happened or what he’d done.
Maybe it's guilt for what I did that night.
There were things from his past he kept hidden. The guilt of lying to his friends about who he was after so many years, was starting to eat at him. He’d become an essential member of Vale Valley, and because of his business acumen, Rosemary Vale, or as he liked to call her Nana Rose, would seek him out for new ideas or thoughts on how to improve things around town.
Rosemary. Mom and I owe her so much.
Rosemary had been their saving grace when they’d arrived in town without a dime to their name and sleeping in their car. It’d been the dead of winter, and Quintus had thought they were going to freeze to death rather than starve. His mother Elizabella had been seven months pregnant and didn’t think anyone would hire her in such a state.
So, he had learned to play the cute kid who would beg for food for him and his family, bringing it back to the woods for his mom and sisters to eat. It’d happened for two weeks before someone had caught on to what he was doing, and that person had happened to be Rosemary. That day Quintus had no idea she’d followed him back into the woods where they were hiding. He had been meters away from his mother and sisters hiding spot when he’d heard her speak.
“You don’t need to beg for food, little cheetah.”
Quintus turned and looked up at the woman standing behind him. And even though she might have seemed imposing to him, Quintus wasn’t afraid.
“I have to,” he told her.
“Why?” She asked, kneeling in front of him.
He might not have been afraid, but he wasn’t sure if he could trust her.
“I promise, I won’t tell. You can trust me.”
Quintus snorted in his shifted form, thinking about her words of promise and trust. Those were to the famous last worst of every villain in movies. Trust me, the villain would tell their prey before they slashed their throats open.
But with Rosemary, she’d meant it. He’d scented the truth on her, which was why he had confessed and told her about his pregnant mother and baby sisters waiting for him to bring food to them. That day she’d taken them home with her, and for the first time in weeks, he’d been able to shower, eat, and rest—without worry.
Rosemary had given them a place to stay and had helped his mom get a job after the baby was born. Years later, his mom had saved up enough money to open her own bakery which later became the diner. Elizabella was known for her pies and strong coffee. According to his mother, it had been her pies that had helped seduce Gabriel. But Gabriel would correct her and say it had been her beauty and charm that had made him want to be with her always.
Quintus was happy that in their new life his mother had found love. He didn't want to question why his mother and Gabriel weren't mated. It brought up doubt and worry that his father was still alive. It wasn't something he wanted to think about.
Not now, not ever.
Quintus kept telling himself it wasn't his fault, he was protecting his mother and sisters. He hadn't known the gun was loaded. All he’d wanted was for his mother to stop screaming. And had only wanted to scare his father.
Quintus remembered the evil intent he’d felt coming off his father, and had known he couldn't trust his father’s words of love and forgiveness. He had felt, even at seven, their lives would forever be in danger. All his father had to do was leave the house and never come back.
Quintus couldn’t remember what else had happened before the gun went off. All he recalled was his father crying out “don't shoot” before he pulled the trigger, killing his father instantly.
* * *
An hour later, Quintus opened the back door to his house and walked over to the fridge, getting two bottles of water. He threw one to Donald, who caught it without missing a beat.
“Are you staying for breakfast?” Quintus asked after he guzzled down his entire bottle of water.
“You’re going to make someone a good mate. You’re so attentive and caring.”
“Shut up and answer the damn question.” He threw his empty bottle into the recycling bin and walked over to the sink to wash his hands.
“No, not today. I’m meeting Chance for breakfast.”
“Does Gray know you’re trying to move in on his man?” Quintus asked jokingly.
“A good mate, you’ll be. A comedian, you’re not,” Donald said.
“So that’s a ‘no’ on Gray knowing.”
“One, Chance is not my type. I’m not into alpha males. And two, my feelings for Grayson are nothing more than friendship. I respect his mating with Chance. Hell, I get jealous about how devoted he is and wonder if I’ll ever have a mate who would be just as committed to me.”
“I think anyone who wants to find their mate hopes for the same thing,” Quintus told him. “So why are you meeting with him?”
“Promise me you won’t laugh when I tell you why?” He went to answer, but Donald stopped him. “Please, this is important to me.” Quintus turned and folded his arms across his chest, then nodded. “I’m going to tell him I want to be the deputy mayor. I know I haven’t been in Vale Valley long, and I don’t have many friends—besides you and Grayson. But since coming here, I’ve fallen in love with the place. There’s so much good I can do here. I have the resources and money burning a hole in my bank account, and I don’t want to spend it on frivolous things. I want to invest it in this town.”
Quintus was silent for a few minutes as he studied his friend. He wasn’t sure who the man was before he showed up in Vale Valley, but he liked the man who was in front of him. He listened when Quintus rambled on about everything and nothing at all. He was the one who was more level headed the night they’d found Chance’s body in the woods when he’d been attacked by the former deputy mayor. Quintus could tell the man was a leader and did not mind being in the spotlight. But would also step back and give others their light to shine.
“Your money isn’t going to impress Chance. In fact, don’t mention how much you’re worth.”
Donald nodded and rested his hands on his hips. “What else?”
“Be up front, don’t beat around the bush or try to be coy. He hates that shit. Well, except when Grayson does it. And for what it’s worth, I think you’ll make a good deputy mayor. And if I know Nana Rose, she already knows what you might want to talk to Chance about and gave him a heads up. I’ve suspected for years she has seer abilities or knows someone who does.”
“She seems to be one step ahead of everyone else,” he said with a smile. “If I hadn’t been turned into a werewolf, I would have thought you were crazy—talking about seers.”
“Ain’t that the truth.”
“Do you think Chance will agree to work with me?”
“He’s agreed to meet with you, so that means he’s willing to at least listen.”
“All right,” he said walking over to the door. “Let me get home and shower. I don’t want to be late for my meeting.”
“Hey,” Quintus said, stopping him before he walked out of the kitchen. “I meant what I said, it wasn’t lip service. I can tell you will fit in well as the deputy mayor.”
“Thanks, man, that means a lot. I’ll see you later tonight.”
Quintus watched Donald get in his car and drive off. He looked around and realized he didn’t want to have breakfast alone. Usually, after their morning run, they’d have breakfast before going their separate ways.
Walking out of the kitchen, he took the stairs two at a time and started stripping off his clothes the second he got to the bedroom. Once he was ready for work, he planned on making a stop at his mom’s diner. He knew she’d make him a big breakfast.
Maybe I’ll get the guys a pie or two to have with their lunch.
Scottland Shelton, Scott to his friends and family, walked into his office and stopped by his assistant’s desk wondering where the hell he was.
It wasn’t often he’d show up to work and Marlow wasn’t at his desk. Scott couldn’t forget the day he had hired Marlow—he’d been in dire need of help.
When he’d opened his practice five years ago, he hadn’t counted on it being busy. Scott figured he’d only see one or two patients on his busiest day, so hiring an assistant hadn’t been something he’d originally considered.
He had no plans on charging the patients he’d see. He had no concerns when it came to him making a living—not with who his family was or his investments. At close to one hundred, he’d amassed a great wealth.
But he'd been utterly wrong in his assumptions.
On the first day Scott had opened his practice, his waiting room had been swamped with new patients. Truthfully, Scott had been overwhelmed until Marlow had walked in and helped him out. It was as if the man had known he’d needed help, or someone had sent him because they’d known what Scott was in for—namely Rosemary Vale.
The former mayor was more like family than a friend. But according to Marlow, the first time he’d met Rosemary was when Scott had introduced them.
Scott thought he would've had his life together by now, but he wasn’t anywhere close. He was still figuring things out, just like any other person.
Age has nothing to do with how your life should be going.
“Hey, boss. What are you doing here so early?” Scott turned when he heard Marlow behind him.
“Early? What are you talking about? This is my usual time,” he said looking at his watch and then at the clock on the wall office, before realizing he was an hour early.
“I keep telling you to get a cellphone. Come out of the dark ages, old man.” Marlow snorted as he walked over to stand behind his desk.
“I don’t need a cellphone, what would I do with it? My patients know how to get in touch with me,” he grumbled.
“You are the only man I know who refuses to come into the twenty-first century when it comes to technology.”
“Do we have to go through this every morning?”
“Yup, I’m going to bug you until you buy one,” Marlow answered. “I had to nag you just to get a computer. If I left everything up to you, we would still be using quills and parchment paper. So yeah, I will not rest until you get a cellphone.”
“Then I’ll go with the same answer I give you every other day. The underworld will freeze over before I get a cellphone. Now tell me what’s on my agenda for today.”
“No, you don’t,” Marlow said, narrowing his eyes at Scott. “Just because you’re one hour early, you think you’re going to take away my me-time?”
“Your ‘me-time?’” Scott said in confusion.
“Yup, this is the time I take for myself before my mean old boss shows up and expects me to be at his beck and call.” Marlow walked around his desk, grabbing Scott by the hand, and started ushering him out the door. “I need to consume two cups of coffee, check my social media accounts, and have my bagel.”
“Mean old boss? When have I ever been mean? And couldn’t you have done those things before you came into the office?”
“Scott, I say this with love. Find something to do for one hour and leave me to my morning ritual. You can understand that as a dominant, can’t you?”
Scott didn’t get a chance to answer, because he was shoved out of the office, the door closing in his face. “Hey. Did you forget I’m your boss, and I can fire you?” He didn’t get a response, but he also didn’t expect one. Truthfully, he would never fire Marlow. He was the best assistant Scott could ever find.
Sighing, Scott looked down the long hallway and was happy that no one had been there to see him get kicked out of his office by his assistant.
Seeing that he was going to be locked out of his office for the next hour, Scott decided maybe it was an excellent time to take a walk.
I could use a cup of coffee.
Scott’s office was within walking distance to Bella’s Diner, and it would be open for the morning breakfast rush. As he got on the elevator, he noticed people were giving him strange looks. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t seen him before. He shared a building with them.
Maybe it’s because they’ve never seen you outside so early.
Ignoring the onlookers, Scott got off the elevator and went to do something he hadn’t been able to do in a while, and relax with his coffee before he had to go back to the office. He hadn’t been able to do that in the past few weeks. His busiest times were during the winter and late spring. Just before the summer season hit, his patients seemed to need him more. As a psychiatrist, he tried his best to listen and help them with their problems.
Scott knew he was skilled at his job, but there were things he hadn’t learned in medical school that he was facing daily. That’s where his powers of empathy came in. He didn’t use his empathic abilities on every patient—only with his most difficult cases. There were also times he felt as if he wasn’t doing anything in regard to his patients, but he wasn’t going to stop trying.
Scott knew what one of the common threads where. It didn’t matter if they were shifters or humans, a lot of his patients were dealing with loneliness and not having a mate. He’d seen a rise in new patients in the past few months, when it seemed love had found its way to Vale Valley.
Scott couldn’t say he was exempt from what his patients were dealing with, because he was an unmated vampire who wasn’t sure if he was ready to find love.
Scott's life hadn’t been so bad for his entire existence—he hadn't always been lonely. He had his family and friends. Scott had found love in one breath and lost it in another. Some by his desire of being young and not ready to commit. And others because of his fears and stupidity.
Over the years, he'd pushed his lovers away because he couldn't fully give them what they’d desired most, his heart. Even though they were ready to give him theirs. But what hurt more was watching his lovers die.
A vision of Alec came to his mind, and the hurt of losing his last lover and submissive still burned inside of him. Scott hadn’t cared that Alec wasn't his mate, he loved him more than breath and life itself. He had been willing to do anything to keep him by his side forever.
If only I’d been there.
But there was nothing he could’ve done. No matter how many times he’d told Alec he loved him, Scott couldn't have saved him from himself. Not as his friend and lover. Scott would have turned Alec, but even he had to admit he’d been afraid of what his lover would have been capable of if he had been given the power of a vampire.
Would he have done much more than harm himself?
The night he and Alec had met... it was as if there had been no one else in the room but the two of them. Scott had been completely mesmerized by the curly, dark-haired man who’d been playing the piano with more passion than he'd ever seen.
His fingers had seductively glided over the piano keys, and Scott had felt as if he was playing for him and no one else. Alec had lifted his head and looked out into the crowd, and Scott had known the second their eyes met that the man would be his.
Scott had introduced himself to Alec after the concert and soon after their romance began. Alec was human, and Scott had told him he was a vampire. His lover had taken it in stride but made him promise if anything were to happen to him and he was on death's door to never turn him.
At the time, Scott hadn’t thought about it and respected his request, because he thought Alec would be with him for eternity. To him Alec was his mate, even if they weren’t fated. It was the reason why he’d started using Alec’s last name, Shelton. They had been in happy bliss for twenty years.
But since Alec's death, he wished he hadn't respected his lover's wishes.
I never imagined Alec would kill himself.
After Alec's death, Scott had been lost and closed himself off from everyone who loved and cared for him. Scott had been a young musician when he and Alec had met. But after his lover's death, he’d quit the band he'd formed and stopped singing. It had been as if the music had died along with Alec.
Scott had refused to leave the house or see anyone and had surrounded himself in his guilt for not being able to save the man he loved. There’d been a few times he’d wanted to join Alec in the afterlife, but had known his bearer, Braxton Boroson-Dracul and Rosemary Vale would go to the depths of the underworld to find him and bring him back.
Scott smiled, thinking of his bearer and Rosemary's close friendship. Braxton Boroson-Dracul—formerly the god Baldur and the favored son of the god Odin and the goddess Frigg—was a well-known actor. Most wouldn't believe him if he told them about his family relation to the mighty Norse gods. Or that he was the grandson of Dracul—or Dracula to those who believed in the myths.
There were times he could not believe it himself.
His bearer Baldur later changed his name to Braxton when he’d started living amongst humans. On more than one occasion, Scott had heard the story of how Braxton and Rosemary met. It was an instant friendship. Braxton had become bored with his life in the in-between realm and had decided to live amongst humans.
In the beginning, Odin was against it and felt that gods should not mix with those who worshiped at their feet. It hadn’t helped that Braxton had already met and fallen in love with Armand Dracul, the first-born son of Vladimir Dracul the third. His refusal to return to the in-between realm where all the gods lived, had resulted in a battle between father and son.
History books spoke of a great earthquake that had shaken the world, changing its geographical status for all eternity. But those who knew the truth recalled it had been Braxton and Odin who were in a fierce battle for forty days and nights. Once Odin had grown tired of fighting with his favorite son, he’d allowed him permission to live among his followers.
Scott was grateful for his parents. They’d raised him, his brother, and sister with the knowledge of who they were—vampires with the strength and blood of gods running through their veins. But they’d also taught them to protect and stand up for those who were weak.
Scott was also thankful for Rosemary, who’d been a constant in his life from birth. He knew of the closeness his bearer shared with the former mayor. It has been said that when the two were together, even Odin shudders in fear of what kind of trouble they could get into.
Scott realized that, even through his loneliness, he had people who loved him. But it didn't stop him from missing the man he’d loved and would possibly love for all eternity. Scott knew he could go to his cousin Hellenna to bring Alec back from the underworld, but he'd kept to the promise he made to Alec.
As much as he loved his cousin Hellenna, the woman couldn't be trusted to fulfill her end of the deal without wanting something in return. The woman was smart, conniving, and drop-dead gorgeous. Which was how she conned many men and women to do her bidding.
“Scott, you all right?”
Scott was pulled from his thoughts when he heard the question and looked up to see his best friend Chance staring at him. Scott creased his brows, wondering exactly when he’d stopped walking. He recalled his initial plan was to go to the diner.
“Yeah. I’m good, just thinking.”
“Thinking? You look like you were miles away. Anyway, it’s a bit odd to see you out and about so early.”
“What is it with you and Marlow? I’m an early riser,” he said, crossing his arms. He was lying his ass off.
Chance snorted. "Since when? Dude, you're a typical vampire. If it were up to you, you'd get up at sunset. So, what are you really doing up?"
“I thought I was running late for work and rushed out of the house an hour early. Marlow kicked me out of the office because, apparently, he takes his ‘me time.’ What the fuck does that even mean?”
Chance barked out a laugh at his expense.
“It’s not that funny,” he said.
“Actually, it is. I’ve told you that you need to get rid of that cheap ass watch, and buy a new one. Hell, get a cellphone or one of those home media things that will keep you on time.”
“Not you too! I told you, I don’t need a cellphone,” he defended. “Plus, Alec gave me this watch.”
“Keep telling yourself that,” Chance said between chuckles. “Keep the watch but get with the fucking times.”
“So, what are you doing out and about, Mister Mayor?”
“Hey, I’m still Chance to you. None of the mayor crap. I’m here to meet Donald. He says he has something he wants to talk to me about.”
“My...aren’t we friendly with the mate’s ex-lover,” Scott teased.
Chance shrugged. “He’s not a bad guy. Besides, Grayson loves me and no one else.”
Scott smiled and nodded. He was happy for his friend. Chance had claimed his mate Grayson over the holidays. He was also a father of triplets. Scott wasn't sure how his best friend did it, but he had to give it to the man. He'd taken over as mayor, played with the band they started together, worked in the shop at least one day of the week, and found time for his family.
“I’m glad to see how much you’ve grown, my friend,” Scott told him. “You’ve turned it to an upstanding family man.”
“Oh gods. What exactly were you thinking about before I interrupted you?”
“The meaning of life,” Scott answered, skirting around the issue. He’d told Chance everything about Alec. About how lost he’d been before moving to Vale Valley and how the town and music had breathed life back into him.
“Please tell me you’re not still blaming yourself?” Scott looked down at the hard pavement, avoiding answering his question.
“I’m not telling you to let him go, but I’m sure Alec wouldn’t be happy to know you’re still not moving on with your life.”
"I know," Scott sighed, raising his head. "It's not a healthy way to live. If I were one of my patients, I would have told them what you just told me. But he still has a hold on my heart, Chance. I'm fine. I promise."
“What happened to the guy you were interested in a few months ago?”
“Nothing. I decided not to bother asking him out. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, then.”
“How many times are you going to use that excuse? I know we’d said we would go to the club together before I mated with Grayson...but you could have gone without me.”
“I could have, but I haven’t in the mood. They are all the same, Chance. Well, behaved and well trained.”
Scott chuckled. “So, what you’re telling me is you’re looking for a challenge?”
"Maybe. And I get it, in the past few months…or years," he said from the expression on Chance's face. "I've lived a miserable existence. I've honestly lost count of how many times I've been with the same sub."
“Then find a new one,” Chance told him.
“Maybe I shouldn’t tell you what I’ve been thinking about.” Chance looked at him suspiciously, and he could almost tell what his friend was thinking. “I’m not leaving Vale Valley. My bearer would drag me back here.”
“Good...so tell me what you’ve been thinking.”
“How about we open up our own club? I’m certain we’re not the only dominants in Vale Valley.”
Chance was silent, and Scott could tell his friend was thinking things over. They were both dominants who’d trained under the same Master after he’d moved to Vale Valley. His friendship with Chance was important to him. The man had seen Scott at his weak points, whenever it was the anniversary of Alec’s death, and never once judged him for holding on to his love.
“So, what do you think?”
“Before I say yes, answer a couple of questions for me.”
“All right.” Chance was probably thinking Scott was using the club idea as a way to avoid thinking about Alec.
“Aren’t you busy enough?”
“With what exactly?”
“Music, the band, coven, and let’s not forget...your practice?”
“I can write music anytime, we can play and practice at the club, and my coven members are fine living their lives. As Long as they don’t go rogue or break any of my rules, I don’t need to be involved. And my practice will not suffer. I’ve been thinking of bringing another doctor in anyway.”
“All right then, let’s do it. But if I see you trying to juggle everything all at once and not living a little, I’m going to tell Rosemary what’s going on. You know she’ll tell your father.”
“Oh, for crying out loud. Seriously? You’re going to play the daddy card?”
“I’ll play any card I can to make sure you don’t sink back into a world of self-pity and guilt. Or try to work yourself to death.” Chance told him seriously. “I know you can’t be killed easily, but I don’t care.”
“I won’t,” Scott told him.
The man falls in love and wants everyone to have a mate. It must be a mayor thing to be a nosey matchmaker.
“I won’t let you promise me that because I know it’s one you will never be able to keep.”
Scott knew Chance was right. He could already feel himself pulling back from everyone little by little. In many ways, Scott was like his patients—he was broken and lonely, which was why he never judged them. While he tried to help them, he refused to get help for himself.
“Just promise you won’t tell Rosemary. I don’t need my parents breathing down my neck. They keep dropping the grandchildren hints. Like they don’t have enough between my brother and sister? They have so many kids between them. Even I forget their names sometimes.”
“But you’re their precious baby….”
“There you are.” They both looked to their right when they heard Marlow’s voice. “Do you know how long I’ve been looking for you?”
“Uh…” Scott said just as Chance snorted.
“You have patients waiting for you at the office,” Marlow complained, and started dragging him back from the way he came.
“What the hell are you talking about? You kicked me out of the office for your personal time, remember?”
“That was an hour and a half ago,” Marlow said with a huff. “You need a minder.”
“That’s why I hired you,” Scott drawled, not caring he was being dragged.
“I thought I was fired?” Marlow asked without looking at him.
“Hey, I’ll see you for dinner on Thursday. We can work out the details on the club then.” Chance yelled. “That’s if your guard dog will let you.”
Scott could hear the laughter in Chance’s voice and gave him the middle finger, which only made his friend laugh more.
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