My head was pounding like a motherfucker as I opened my eyes to harsh morning sunlight creeping into my bedroom, uninvited.
I glanced over to my nightstand where an empty bottle of whiskey made me remember why I felt like such shit.
Well, that and Jocelyn breaking up with me in a closet full of latex gloves and bedpans after my Haze fail.
Definitely not my proudest moment.
I tried to pull my sheets back over my head, only to realize that they were completely shredded and now resembled confetti.
Damn, I must’ve had a really rough night.
I growled under my breath and smothered my face with a pillow, trying to block out the light.
The first day of the Haze should’ve been a chance for me and my girlfriend to fuck to our hearts’ content, but instead, the only person who had gotten fucked was me.
“Mindfucked,” I mumbled into my pillow.
Jocelyn had exposed me to an uncomfortable truth. Or rather, she’d forcibly pushed me off a cliff toward my impending doom.
I had been perfectly content with my many rotating seasonal partners, with my status as the unattainable alpha, and with my freedom.
Except that I wasn’t really content at all…
That’s what Jocelyn made me realize.
I thought she might’ve actually been ‘the one,’ but she wasn’t my mate—she’d never be able to fill that void, and she’d seen it even before I did.
And that meant I was going to be single during the worst time of the year to be single.
I’d have women breaking down my door to be with me when they heard the news, sure, but that was the last thing I wanted.
Then again, one of them could end up being my true mate and I just haven’t met her yet.
That was just wishful thinking, though. Life wasn’t a fucking fairytale. I knew it wouldn’t be anywhere near that easy to find my mate.
Some people never found them…
I threw my pillow across the room in frustration. I was missing my other half, and I wouldn’t ever be satisfied until I’d found her.
Once you’d realized that your heart, mind, body, and soul were all on the same page, and that they only wanted one thing, you were kind of fucked.
I’d never be able to go on another date again without thinking, “You’re not her.”
Whoever she is…
I forced myself to sit up and dragged my still-drunk ass out of bed. It wasn’t going to do me any good wallowing in self-pity.
I desperately needed to get my mind off this mythical woman who was already ruining my life before I’d even met her.
Maybe I’d lift some weights, or go for a run, or just drown myself in more whiskey and work.
But none of that would help me get what I wanted; it would only serve as a temporary distraction.
I’d buried my desire for a mate down so deep that now that it was coming to the surface, I couldn’t deal.
What I really needed was advice. I’d normally go to my brother for this sort of thing. But since Aaron’s passing, I was starkly on my own navigating love and mates.
I’d always looked up to Aaron, relied on him for everything. Because he’d had it all figured out, not like me; I could barely hold my shit together at any given moment.
And right then, I felt like a real fucking mess.
Unfortunately, the smartest, most put-together person in my life also just happened to be my ex-girlfriend, as of last night.
My pride felt especially hard to swallow, but I shoved it down anyway.
This won’t be awkward at all…
I knocked gently on Jocelyn’s office door. It was only a floor below mine in the pack house, so we were bound to run into each other sooner, rather than later.
Jocelyn’s voice called out from the other side. “Come in!”
I entered the room and closed the door behind me. Jocelyn’s eyes widened in surprise.
“Don’t worry, I’m not Hazed,” I said, trying to lighten the mood.
“No, but you are hungover,” Jocelyn replied, wrinkling her nose. “I can smell you from here.”
I walked over to her desk and sat in the chair across from her. “You don’t think you had anything to do with that?”
She gave me a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry I ended things so…abruptly. But we both know that breaking up is for the best.”
I reluctantly nodded. “I guess, but that leaves me without a partner for the season. People are going to talk.”
“People will always talk,” Jocelyn countered.
“Yeah, but what about when it’s my council talking? It makes me look weak if I don’t mark anyone.”
“If it helps, we can keep the breakup to ourselves for a while,” Jocelyn said. “I know you have an image to uphold as the alpha.”
“What image?” I scoffed. “You mean the man who’s been alpha for eight years and is still unmated? Not exactly picture-perfect, is it?”
“It’s better than lying to yourself about what you want,” Jocelyn replied.
Fuck, she really is always right.
“But the truth is scary as hell, Jocelyn,” I said. “What if I never find my mate?”
Jocelyn reached across the table and grabbed my hand, flipping it over, palm up.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Reading your energy,” she said. “Now be quiet so I can focus.”
“Okay, what does my future hold?” I said, rolling my eyes.
“I’m a healer, not a witch,” she replied snappily. “But…”
“But what?” My stomach was instantly in knots.
Jocelyn traced two braided lines near the top of my palm with her finger.
“This is your mate line,” she said. “See how these two lines weave in and out of each other? That’s a really good sign. It means your mate is out there somewhere. Destiny isn’t as far off as you might think.”
My heart actually swelled with hope for a moment. “What else does it say?”
Apparently, I was a believer now.
Jocelyn grimaced as she inspected my palm closer.
“Do you see all these tiny lines branching out of your mate line? The ones that kind of look like barbed wire? That means your journey with your mate is going to be a complicated one.”
Great, exactly what I fucking need.
But at least she’s out there.
“Are you sure you’re really a doctor?” I teased, giving Jocelyn a skeptical look.
“Healer,” she shot back. “But if you’re not careful, I’ll take you out. I’m tougher than I look.”
We both laughed, and it felt good to act like things were normal between us.
“Trust me, I know how tough you are,” I said. “You put up with my bullshit all the time.”
Jocelyn pulled her hand away and gave me a small smile. There was something final in that smile, an end to our past but not to our friendship.
“So, are we good?” I asked.
“I won’t pretend like this isn’t hard,” she said, honestly. “Things might be awkward for a while, but we’ll manage. And we’ll always be good.”
“Thank God because if I didn’t have you, I wouldn’t know north from south,” I said. “You’ve been my guide all this time.”
“I wish I could guide you to your mate,” Jocelyn said, sighing. “I know what you’re going through. Sometimes it feels like we’ll never find each other.”
We shared a moment of silence, longing for those missing mates in our lives. The people who would finally make us whole.
Jocelyn broke the silence by opening her bottom desk drawer and pulling out two crystal glasses, followed by a bottle of bourbon.
“Doctor, I’m shocked,” I said, giving her a smirk. “I’d never have guessed you had a secret booze stash in your office.”
“For the last time, it’s healer,” she said, exasperated. “And I only bring this out for special occasions. Like when my ~ex~ comes to ask for mate advice. This is more for me than you.”
She poured us each two fingers of the amber liquid, and we clinked our glasses, looking into each other’s eyes.
“To finding your mate,” Jocelyn said.
“And yours,” I said in return.
If my mate was out there, I was going to find her. No matter how long it took.
I wanted her so fucking bad it hurt. I wanted her with every fiber of my being.
I looked at the barbed lines of my palm again as I set my glass down. The lines Jocelyn had said would create…complications.
I’m finally ready for you.
I just hope you’re ready for me too.