In Hidden Shifter by Abraham Steele, Samuel Hillwell is in mourning for a man he’s never met and Caden Grey is on the run. When these two men get together, they are shocked at the truths that come out.This post contains affiliate links.
Hidden Shifter by Abraham Steele
Purchase Links: Amazon
Series: Fated Date Agency Book 7
Author: Abraham Steele
Publication Date: October 28, 2015
Genre: M/M, Shifter, Paranormal
Length/Format: 1187 KB/249 pages
“I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.”
I’d already been sitting on the edge of my leather couch waiting to hear who my fated mate was. Now I pressed the phone to my ear as if it would make an explanation come faster. “Bad news?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Hillwell,” Praya said again. “Your fated mate is… dead.”
The phone fell out of my suddenly-limp hand. I slumped against the couch, unable to move. It sounded like the woman was still talking, but I didn’t have the strength to pick the phone up and hear what she was saying. She’d already told me everything I needed to know.
My fated mate was dead.
For a moment, I just let my mind wrap around the facts. My fated mate was gone before I’d even had a chance to meet him. I’d never known him – and now I would never know him. Still struggling to breathe, I pushed myself to wrap my fingers around the handset.
“Mr. Hillwell?” the matchmaker asked. “Are you still there?”
Was I? It was a good question. “I’m here,” I finally said. “There… there must be some mistake. My mate can’t be dead.”
“I know this must be shocking for you,” she said. “I can call back later and give you your mate’s information, if you’d like. I think you could still make it to the funeral.”
A fist seemed to squeeze my heart. Going to my fated mate’s funeral would be bad enough if I’d actually lived with the man. To go without having known him felt even worse. I didn’t know if I could take it.
This definitely was a shock, and I was about to ask Praya to call me back as she’d suggested. Then it hit me. If I could still make it to the funeral…
“When did he die?” I asked.
“I’m so sorry, Mr. Hillwell,” she said quietly. “He died yesterday.”
A strangled sob came out of my lips. If I’d just written to the agency earlier, I would have met my mate. It had been open for years now. Practically every alpha and omega I knew had been written in, been matched, and fallen in love. Shifters across the country had already found happiness.
But me? No, I was always too busy. My work was more important than finding the man of my dreams. The money was stacking up in my bank account, and there was no time to feel lonely. When I did think about the coldness of my bed at night, I just put off writing to the agency. There was always more time.
That time had run out.
Somehow I managed to speak. “How did it happen?”
“He was in a car accident,” Praya said.
She sounded sympathetic. I tried to picture her – she sounded middle-aged, but what did she look like? Was she behind a desk? In a white lab coat? Her hands would definitely be folded, and her lips would be pursed. It probably wasn’t every day that she had to deliver this kind of news. Well, it wasn’t as if it mattered.
“You can look up the details, if you’d like,” she said. “His name was Idris Greene.”
The name alone sent a rush through me. Idris, Idris… They said names could influence your personality, and in this case I thought it was true. Knowing his name brought me a tiny bit closer to him. I could almost feel the man I’d been meant to spend my life with.
“I’ll… I’ll look him up,” I murmured. “Thank you.”
I walked with heavy steps through the halls of the home I’d made for myself. The elaborate furnishings and expensive tapestries seemed to mock me. The two men with arms intertwined in a five-thousand-dollar painting shook their heads. I had bought myself a yacht – a yacht! – yet I hadn’t found time to write to the agency. What was all of this worth if I had no mate?
Praya should have matched me earlier. She should have reached out to all the unmatched shifters. There were so few of us left at this point – I was sure she could have done it easily. If she’d put in some effort, done her job, I would have had some time with my mate. Maybe he wouldn’t have died if he’d been here with me.
How could fate have done this to me? Why give me a mate just to take him away? Stopping short in the middle of the hallway, I clenched my fists and screamed up at the sky. My cri de coeur was raw, primal – a howl of suffering.
When I could scream no more, I dropped my hands to my sides. Doing it had given me a kind of relief, and I saw my situation with new clarity. I had done this to myself. I couldn’t deny that. Praya had operated her business as expected. The stars had given me the same treatment as everyone else. It was me who had held off on writing to the agency.
I took in harsh breaths, knowing that I could only blame myself. Why had I waited so long for the right moment? When was the right moment supposed to be? I’d finally done it now that I was closing in on thirty. I’d done it calmly, as if writing to the agency was no different from ordering take-out. I’d only been mildly curious about what I was going to get. If anything, I’d worried slightly about how finding my mate would screw up my current life. I had it pretty good – or I’d always thought I did.
What good were all my stock trades now? They’d seemed so urgent before, and yet I’d never thought the few extra dollars in my bank account from each time I’d said “later.” Love had been waiting for me, and I had shoved it aside.
Turning on an instinct, I banged my head against the wall. I wanted to pound a hole in it, break through to the equally expensive kitchen. But the plaster was too solid. My abuse didn’t even leave a dent. As I touched the tender, rapidly swelling spot on my forehead, I knew I’d be the only one to feel the effects of my action.
Part of me wanted to keep pummeling the wall in the same spot until either it broke or I sank, bleeding, to the floor. At least I’d be doing something.
No, I wouldn’t let myself give in. Anger was necessary, even healthy. It was fair to be angry with myself for what I hadn’t done. But hurting myself would just mean being selfish. I’d done enough of that already. Right now I should be honoring my mate’s memory. I forced one foot forward, then the other.
In my home office, I sat down in front of the computer. My fingers were still weak as I typed in the name Praya had given me. My heart contracted as I saw the results come up. A news article from the Hansbury Herald was still at the top. Underneath that, an obituary.
I clicked the article first. There were five adults and a herd of children in the picture that went with it. I didn’t need to check the caption to figure out who Idris was. My eyes immediately landed on the man who had to be my mate. Had to have been.
He was in the middle of the group, two of the other adults’ arms slung around his back while each of his hands rested on a smiling child’s shoulder. His pride and contentment shone from his heart-shaped face. Clean-shaven with wide-set eyes, he looked young and idealistic.
Longing surged through me. Despite his crooked nose and slightly thinning hairline, I craved this man on an animalistic level. I stared at the picture for several long moments, my mouth watering and my cock twitching. My wolf responded just as strongly. I could almost forget that my mate was – dead…
Tearing my eyes away from the picture, I skimmed through the article. It seemed that Idris was a kindergarten teacher. With a few other teachers, he’d taken the initiative to start this arts and crafts camp for underprivileged children. His particular talent was origami.
As I scrolled down the page, I found another picture of him holding up a paper crane. This one was closer up, and I fought my emotions as I took in the face of the mate I would never know. His collar was slightly wrinkled. A reddish birthmark crept out from under it. I would never get the chance to straighten that collar for him.
The shirt Idris wore looked cheap. Was that his style, or could he not afford anything better? I would have bought him a new one if I’d had a chance. I would’ve shopped with him, smoothed out the edges to make sure his new clothes fit. We could have made out in the changing room and made the salespeople wonder what was going on.
If I’d written to the agency earlier, I could have unbuttoned that simple white shirt. Run my hands over his pecs and trailed my fingertips between them. Now I would never know if my mate had smooth skin or chest hair underneath. I’d never have the opportunity to undo his pants and find the hard length underneath. Never feel what it was like to be inside a lubricated omega hole. To knot my mate and stay inside him for hours…
I hung my head as the worst realization hit me. I was never going to have children now. Not my own, at least. No other man that I might date would be able to give that to me. Gay shifter couples, unlike human men, could have babies without outside help. That option was forever closed to me now. I’d never thought of myself as a family man, but the loss of that possibility struck me.
I pressed the “back” button and clicked on the obituary. There were no more pictures here – not much text, either. The death of a twenty-four-year-old man wasn’t big news. Young men in the primes of their lives died relatively often, I supposed.
Idris had lived in Hansbury, a small town on the west coast. He’d grown up there, and after a few years in college, gone back there. There was a brief quote from his mother about how much she would miss him. A few other people from his life had spoken about how passionate he was, how much he loved his life. They said he had been adored by everyone he knew.
The obituary didn’t say it, of course, but he was clearly an omega. His pack had to be feeling his loss right now. If he was as wonderful as he seemed to be, everyone who knew him would be in mourning. Even without having met him, I could see why.
The funeral details were at the bottom. I should go, but… Hansbury was all the way across the country. I’d have to take time off work to go, and I didn’t even know the man. For a moment, I recoiled against the idea.
A tiny thought formed in the back of my mind: maybe this was better for my career. A mate, and especially children, would have taken away from my work. Alone, nothing would prevent me from working as much as I wanted. I’d never be distracted from the stocks again.
No – that was my problem in the first place. My selfishness and my workaholism had lost me my mate. I’d focused on my career too much, and now I saw what I had given up. The past few minutes had shown me how little happiness money could bring. I would never fall into the same trap. Mate or no mate, my life was going to be different from now on.
It was too late to know Idris now, but going to his funeral would be a kind of penance. I’d be able to meet people he’d known. I’d ask questions about him. They might even take comfort from meeting me. I wouldn’t get my mate, but that couldn’t be helped anymore. The time for happiness was past. All I could do was try to make up for my sins. I’d go to Hansbury.
I turned off the computer. A few short years ago, fated mates were considered nothing more than a legend from the olden times. Now the Fated Date Agency had proven differently. Another legend said that when a shifter died, his fated mate would pass as well.
Right now, I almost wished that one was true.
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